Saltwater Washes (Nasal Saline Lavage or Irrigation) for Sinusitis

Topic Overview

Saltwater washes (saline lavage or irrigation) help keep the nasal passages open by washing out thick or dried mucus; they can also help improve the function of cilia that help clear the sinuses. This can help prevent the spread of infection to the other sinuses and reduce postnasal drip. It also can make the nose feel more comfortable by keeping the mucous membranes moist.

You can buy saline nose drops (such as Ocean) at a pharmacy, or you can make your own saline solution by mixing ½ teaspoon salt, 1 cup water (at room temperature), and ½ teaspoon baking soda. Your doctor may recommend a different strength of salt, baking soda, and water. To use homemade saline solution:

  • Fill a bulb syringe with the saline solution, insert the tip into your nostril, and squeeze gently.
  • Or, pour some saline solution into the palm of your hand and sniff it into your nose, one nostril at a time.
  • The saline wash should go through the nose and out the mouth or the other side of the nose.
  • Blow your nose gently after the saline wash.
  • Repeat several times every day. Consider using this before you try other nasal medications.

Credits

Author Shannon Erstad, MBA/MPH
Editor Kathleen M. Ariss, MS
Associate Editor Denele Ivins
Associate Editor Pat Truman, MATC
Primary Medical Reviewer Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Donald R. Mintz, MD - Otolaryngology
Last Updated August 15, 2008

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