Using a Sinus Rinse to Clear Congestion

A drug-free option for relieving stuffiness and irritation

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A sinus rinse (nasal irrigation system) is often recommended to help clear the sinuses of mucus and irritants that can cause nasal congestion. This effective remedy can also help keep mucous membranes moist. As it is drug-free, a sinus rinse can be used alongside medications without concern (if desired). Those with congestion caused by the common cold, the flu, allergies, and upper respiratory infections may find relief with this option.

sinus rinse pot
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How They Work

Sinus rinse products and systems perform the same action as a neti pot, but many find these choices easier and less intimidating to use. Daily use can help to relieve congestion and keep nasal passages moist.

After using a sinus rinse, your sinuses should be cleared out, making it easier for you to breathe (especially at night) and reducing the extent to which mucus has caused you discomfort.

Common Uses for Saline Rinses

  • Nasal dryness
  • Sinus pressure
  • Nasal congestion
  • Nasal irritation from dust, fumes, animal dander, grass, pollen, smoke, and environmental pollutants
  • Post-nasal drip

Sinus Rinse Options

There are various different brands of sinus rinses on the market. Which you should use largely comes down to personal preference.

These products contain a sterile squeeze bottle and sinus rinse solution packets, which you mix with previously boiled or distilled water to create saline (basically a mild salt water).

Here are just a few that you may find at your local drugstore include:

  • NeilMed Sinus Rinse: This squeeze-bottle system allows you to control the pressure of the rinse while providing a therapeutic and soothing experience.
  • SinuCleanse Soft Tip Squeeze Bottle: The soft tip of the dispenser helps make rinsing more comfortable.
  • SinuCleanse Micro-Filtered Nasal Wash System: This comes with a built-in micro-water filter to provide natural soothing relief for nasal congestion and sinus symptoms.
  • Dr. Hana's Nasopure Nasal Wash: This angled bottle doesn't require you to bend over the sink or title your head to use it, like many other squeeze bottle sinus rinses do.

You will likely also see pre-filled saline nasal prays/mists right alongside these and products like them. One popular example is Arm and Hammer Simply Saline. These are convenient in that you do not need to mix the rinse solution prior to use, but they do not dispense as much fluid as squeeze-bottle options. As such, some may find them more beneficial for nasal irritation.

Rinse Devices

If chronic sinus congestion is a concern for you, and particularly if options like the above are not providing adequate relief, you might consider a sinus rinse device.

One top seller is the Naväge Nasal Care Retail Starter Kit. This battery-operated, handheld device flushes your sinuses with saline solution (which you mix with provided packets). It is more forceful than a squeeze bottle solution, which may be helpful for some.

Other sinus rinse systems function similarly, but resemble dental water picks when it comes to their design. One example is Health Solutions SinuPulse Elite, which has two modes: a light spray and a stream for more substantial irrigation.

These systems are pricer and larger than squeeze bottles, which may make them inconvenient or impractical for some.

Who Can Use Sinus Rinses?

With proper use, sinus rinses are safe for most people. Saline solution is not a medication and does not pose any risk of drug interactions.

The product is also safe for use in children, but a child should be old enough to understand what will happen when they use it and perform the rinse themselves.

That said, you should not use a nasal rinse if:

  • Your nasal passages are completely blocked.
  • You have an ear infection.
  • Your ears are completely blocked with mucus.
  • You are unable to position yourself to allow the solution to run out of your nostrils.

How to Use a Sinus Rinse

Most saline rinse products contain a squeezable plastic bottle that holds 8 ounces of water, premixed saline solution packets, and a tube that extends from the cap into the bottle. You'll want to make sure to always use lukewarm water that's distilled or previously boiled to rinse your sinuses. Never use plain tap water.

Sinus rinse bottles should not be shared among family members and should be washed and dried thoroughly between uses.

Sinus rinse devices/systems differ depending on their design, so be sure to read and follow provided instructions.

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  1. Rabago D, Zgierska A. Saline nasal irrigation for upper respiratory conditionsAm Fam Physician. 2009;80(10):1117‐1119.