Saline Sinus Rinse/Flush - Patient Education Videos

Editor: V. Dimov, M.D., Allergist/Immunologist, Assistant Professor at University of Chicago

Saline nasal irrigation bathes the nasal cavity with liquid by instilling saline into 1 nostril and allowing it to drain out of the other nostril (typically, it drains from both nostrils and the mouth). Only use sterile, distilled, filtered water (using a filter with an absolute pore size of 1 μm or smaller), or previously boiled water for nasal irrigation.

NeilMed Sinus Rinse Video.

Pediatric Nasal Saline Flush/Rinse. Fauquier ENT | January 28, 2008 | This video shows a young child performing saline flushes to his nose without assistance. Indeed, kids older than 5 years are able to perform flushes without difficulty.

Adult Saline Sinus Rinse/Flush. Fauquier ENT | December 05, 2007 | Patient performing a saline flush to his nose. This procedure is often performed by patients who have chronic sinusitis or allergies.

Techniques and devices

Techniques and devices include:

- low positive pressure from a spray or squirt bottle
- gravity-based pressure using a neti pot or other vessel with a nasal spout


A range of conditions may respond to saline nasal irrigation but the evidence supporting its use is less conclusive:

- allergic rhinitis
- acute upper respiratory tract infections (URTI)
- rhinitis of pregnancy
- acute rhinosinusitis

The exact mechanism of action of saline nasal irrigation is unknown. Saline nasal irrigation may improve nasal mucosa function through direct cleansing; removal of inflammatory mediators, and improved mucociliary function, as suggested by increased ciliary beat frequency.

Adverse effects

Fewer than 10% of patients reported adverse effects:

- self-limited sensation of ear fullness
- "stinging" of the nasal mucosa
- rarely epistaxis
-infections.  Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals warned against improper use following the deaths of two people who were infected with Naegleria fowleri after using tap water to irrigate their sinuses. Read more here: Is Rinsing Your Sinuses Safe?


Contraindications for saline nasal irrigation include:

- incompletely healed facial trauma
- increased risk for aspiration, such as intention tremor or other neurologic or musculoskeletal problems.


- For chronic rhinosinusitis, nasal irrigation is an effective adjunctive therapy (level of evidence, A).

- Limited evidence for effective adjunctive treatment of irritant or allergic rhinitis, viral upper respiratory tract infection, and postoperative care after endoscopic sinus surgery (level of evidence, B).

- rhinitis of pregnancy, acute rhinosinusitis, sinonasal sarcoidosis, and Wegener's granulomatosis (level of evidence, C).

Mayo Clinic: What can you do about that runny nose and nasal congestion? Medications are one option, but so is nasal cleansing.

Treatment Options for Allergic Rhinitis (click to enlarge the image).


Use of Saline Nasal Irrigation Reviewed. Laurie Barclay, MD. Medscape, 2009.
Saline Nasal Irrigation for Upper Respiratory Conditions. Am Fam Physician. 2009 November 15; 80(10): 1117–1119 (PDF).
SinuSurf (nasal saline rinse with surfactant) associated with loss of smell "for months to years". Discontinue use (PDF)
Neti Pot, Nasal Irrigation - Pros and Cons and Slideshow. WebMD, 2011.
North Louisiana Woman Dies from Rare Ameba Infection. DHH warns residents about improper neti pot use, 2011.
Is Rinsing Your Sinuses Safe? FDA replies:
Chronic sinus infections with mycobacteria associated with sinus rinses with tap water (nasal washing)

Published: 02/07/2011
Updated: 08/27/2012


Matthew Bowdish MD said...

I wonder whether we should add possible Naegleria fowleri infection as a possible adverse reaction and a caution for immunocompromised individuals? Yet another reason to use distilled water. said...

Thank you, Matthew. The warning and the link to the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals were added to the text.