The nasal mucosa retains and eliminates the impurities contained in the air we breathe by means of the ciliary function. The thick mucus and secretions associated to rhinitis, sinusitis, asthma and retronasal dripping affect said function and make symptoms worse. In addition, retained mucus and secretions facilitate infections, produce nasal obstruction and make breathing difficult, whereas nasal irrigation eliminates mucus, diminishes congestion, facilitates breathing, removes pro-inflammatory secretions and allergens, and restores the ciliary function.
When and how frequently should nasal irrigations be done?
Nasal irrigations are recommended in cases of rhinitis and sinusitis, nasal congestion due to allergy or infections, excess of mucus and in general, any condition that courses with nasal obstruction and hypersecretion. It is also recommended after nasal surgery, or when working in contaminated environments. In cities with high environmental pollution, nasal irrigation is very useful as a preventive measure against rhinitis and sinusitis.
The frequency of irrigation depends on the condition. For pollen allergies it is recommended to do between one and three irrigations a day in the pollination period, before the administration of nasal sprays. In acute conditions like the common cold, irrigation is recommended 2-3 times a day while the congestion remains. In chronic processes, once or twice a day for several weeks or months. When done regularly as a hygienic measure, once a day in the morning or before going to sleep is enough.
Is there any danger in nasal irrigations?
Nasal irrigation is extremely safe. The only precaution is to avoid tilting the head sideways or backwards during the irrigation as this could increase the risk of otitis due to the passage of contaminated secretions to the middle ear. In the SinuSalt or Grossan-Hydro Pulse systems, this is avoided because the irrigation is done with the head in a vertical position and slightly tilted forward. In addition, in this position, the liquid is evacuated easily through the contralateral orifice, which prevents it from entering the throat. In order to avoid contaminations, the same device should not be shared among several persons.
Can the irrigation liquid penetrate the maxillary sinuses?
Yes, the irrigation liquid enters the sinuses and remains there for a short period of time. By moving the head we can facilitate its exit. In the case of sinusitis, retained secretions are diluted, facilitating their elimination.
What is the difference between an irrigation and a spray?
Nasal irrigation cleans the entire nasal and paranasal mucosa. This wash is made with an abundant volume of irrigation liquid (between 250-500 mL), which allows a mechanical drag effect. On the contrary, sprays pulverize a small amount of saline solution that humidifies the nose but does not achieve the cleaning effect of an irrigation.
Can nasal irrigations be done with water only?
No. In contrast with the mucosa of the mouth, the nasal mucosa is highly sensitive to salty concentrations. Irrigations with water only (without salts) are painful, damage the mucosa and alter or inhibit the function of the nasal cilia.
Can table salt be used for preparing the irrigation liquid?
This is not recommended. Table salt has additives like iodine and anti-aggregates which are irritating for the sensitive nasal mucosa. In addition, an irrigation solution made with table salt is not tamponated and therefore cannot compensate the electrolytic variations of tap water. Also, it does not have the ions required by the activity of nasal cilia, and therefore is damaging for the mucosa.
At what age can nasal irrigations be done?
After age 4, when the child is able to co-operate with the irrigation.