The first time I used a neti pot, I was standing in a friend’s bathtub in the wilds of North Carolina. I was highly skeptical about the whole endeavor; if I recall correctly, I said something along the lines of “WHAT?!?!” when my friend explained that I would feel oh so much better if I poured warm salty water through my nose. Like many of us, I suspect, I was deeply skeptical about the idea of pouring water through my schnozz when the thing which is supposed to go through my schnozz is air, because noses are for breathing, not for pouring warm salty water through.
But I was miserable. I’d spent several weeks evacuating various unpleasant substances through my perennially stuffed nose, and being astounded by the sheer volume of crud which could accumulate there. My eyes were watery all the time because they couldn’t drain, and I snuffled and snorted and splorted like an indignant rhino in desperate need of a king-sized handkerchief.
My friend tolerated my presence for about three days, and then finally couldn’t take it anymore.
“You know,” he said, “if your nose is really bugging you, you should use a neti pot. It will clear the gunk out of your nose and help you breathe easier.”
“I should use a what?”
“It’s like a teapot, but for your nose,” he explained. “You can use it to irrigate your nose with saline.”
“The only thing I believe in irrigating is crops,” I retorted.
“No, seriously! Try it!”
What it came down to was that I was challenged on grounds of cowardice for being too afraid to use a neti pot, and I couldn’t back down from that. I was given careful directions and coaching, and encouraged to do it over the sink or in the bathtub to make a minimal mess, if such a thing was possible. My nose wasn’t fully clogged at that point, just gunky, so I was advised that I could use the pot safely on both nostrils.
I duly trouped into the bathroom and proceeded to stare with deep mistrust at the neti pot. I didn’t really quite understand how this whole procedure should work, even after having it mimed with an empty pot and explained in detail. Hesitantly, I tilted my head, and poured a little bit of water into my nose.
The water ended up everywhere, because I poured too quickly and at too much of an angle and the lid clattered off. I ended up with a small pool of saltwater in my nose which stung briefly and promptly drained from the same nostril I poured it into. Laughter echoed from the other side of the bathroom door.
I was not going to let a teapot get the best of me. Oh, no. And I certainly wasn’t going to endure mockery for weeks because I couldn’t complete a simple Ayurvedic maneuver which my friend smugly assured me he’d been doing since childhood. If a toddler could do it, I could do it!
So I tilted, more gingerly this time, and poured. To my astonishment, water flowed up my nostril, and out the other side. Oh, it splattered all over my shirt, but still, nasal irrigation accomplished! I repeated the procedure on the other side, snorting with astonishment when I was finished (I do not recommend this, because I ended up with a layer of salt mucus in the back of my throat).
But I didn’t really experience any results. I mean, yes, my nose oozed for a bit. But I didn’t feel like I was breathing any more easily. Until the next morning, when I woke up and my nose was actually clear, and so were my lungs. I would have written it off as a fluke, except that I started noticing a correlation during my visit. The morning after neti pot uses, I could breathe. The morning after days when I didn’t do it? I couldn’t.
Oh, I still needed my asthma medications, and my nose still got stuffed up on occasion. There were days when it was so swollen and tender that I couldn’t really do much at all with it other than gingerly soaking it in warm water to try and loosen some of the mucus to see if that would clear it. It’s not that the neti pot was a magical cureall for all my problems. It’s more that it made things…easier.
I became a neti pot convert. And I duly carried my little pot around with me most places. I’ve lived in a fair number of dusty places, and sometimes been amazed by the crap which I can flush out of my nose with a single shot of saline. Amazingly, the little neti pot my friend gave me held up for a number of years, until Mr Bell broke it last month and I had to go out and acquire a new one.
Now I’m using what basically amounts to a fancy squeezebottle. The main selling point is that it’s designed so that you can irrigate your nose upright, instead of having to do the tilt and shuffle game. And I have to say, it is easier to use, for sure, but there’s something I miss about the old style just the same. Sure, the squeezebottle is easier to use, easier to pack, and so forth, but sticking a plastic nozzle up my schnozz doesn’t have quite the same panache as tilting my head in the middle of the shower and trying not to end up with saltwater all over myself.
The neti pot is one of those things I’ve embraced, but I don’t really evangelize about. For one thing, I’m not really a big fan of people who push treatments on me, whatever their intentions and the origins of the treatment. For another, people tend to look at me really strangely when I say they should try pouring warm saltwater through their noses. But, I have to grudgingly admit; my friend was right all those years ago when he said I’d feel much better if I gave it a shot.