Warning: Neti Pots Aren't All That


Thanks to a deathly pale counterwoman who was coughing and snuffling into her sleeve while serving me pastries -- next time I spot a disease vector, I'm just walking out, no matter how good the bakery's reputation is -- I returned from vacation with a cold AND a sinus infection.

You need to get yourself a neti pot, urged several of my friends, one of whom has been pushing them for months. Neti pots, which look like little teapots, are nasal irrigation systems that come from India's ayurvedic medicine tradition (YouTube is chock full of videos demonstrating how they work). Even though I haven't stepped foot in a yoga studio for a year, I've been seeing neti pots all over Seattle, and have participated in a half-dozen conversations about their wonders. They're the zinc lozenge of 2008, the alternative medicine cureall du jour. I checked in with both the Mayo Clinic and WebMD, and the neti pot's glowing reputation appeared to have no shadow.

So I bought a plastic neti pot at Walgreen's, of all places, and went home to engage in some healthful nasal lavage, mixing up a saline solution according to the directions. I'll spare you the details of what came out in the wash, but it seemed to work the first time, so I tried it again the next morning, and that's when everything started hurting. My nose stung for 20 minutes, and I got salt water all up in my eustachian tubes, so not only are my blocked sinuses awaiting the blessed relief that a good dose of antibiotics promises to deliver, but my ears are now popping and aching.

Are neti-pot disasters a quiet epidemic? Discuss.

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