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Neti Pot of Horrors

Mar 29, 2012 11:48AM ● By Anonymous

I’ve been saddled with sinus problems most of my life. (My theory is that my head is too small and there just isn’t room for my sinuses to function properly, but that’s a topic for another Thrive.)

People are always pestering me to use a neti pot (no one’s more persistent that a recent homeopathic convert). Used for centuries in eastern cultures, neti pots look like a cross between a teapot and Aladdin’s lamp. When filled with warm water and saline, a neti pot is used for nasal irrigation. But when considering neti pot use, I can’t help but think of a conversation I had 20 years ago. At the time, I had very serious sinus surgery for multiple nasal polyps, including a turbinectomy and several other gory procedures with less memorable names. I remember the surgeon at the University of Pennsylvania explaining the things that could go wrong—as all good doctors must. The most chilling possibilities were brain damage and the leakage of cerebral spinal fluid out my nose. I did not realize until that moment that the brain is right there at the back of the nose—just a whisper-thin membrane away. Which is why I was always a little leery of neti pot use—rightly so, as it turns out.

Two people recently died in Louisiana after using neti pots filled with amoeba-infested tap water. The parasitic organism infected the victims’ brains, destroying neural tissue which resulted in death within a matter of days. At press time the cases were being investigated since water treatment procedures should have eliminated the threat.

Regardless, there is a reason neti pot manufacturers recommend using distilled or sterilized water. Hope all you netis out there heed that advice.