I Tried It: Neti Pot for Spring Allergies

Our writer was desperate to rid herself of her awful spring allergies. So she tried a Neti pot—and lived to tell the (very strange) tale.

April showers bring May flowers, and those damn flowers bring many of us the horror that is seasonal allergies.

With pollen coating everything from our cars to our clothes, daily allergy medications oftentimes just don’t cut it. I recently found myself popping Claritin like an addict, tissues in hand, clawing at my eyes. Everything itched: my eyes, my throat, the bridge of my nose, the roof of my mouth, the insides of my ears. My entire head was one giant, itchy mess.

Every year, I cross my fingers and hope that this spring will be different and I won’t wake up with eyes that make me want to pull an Oedipus and forget seeing forever. And every year, I struggle with just taking over-the-counter allergy medication. A few weeks ago when I began suffering from a sore throat due to postnasal drip, I found myself wondering if there was anything else I could do.

If you read our recent Ask the Health Coach column, you know that using a Neti pot can greatly help allergy suffers. This teapot-shaped device has been used for hundreds of years to clear out sinuses; a saltwater mixture is poured in through one nostril and comes out the other. But this process tends to intimidate most people. Who would actually do that?

I’m not most people, so I decided to give it a shot. It helped that I was at my breaking point—if I came within a few feet of another flower, I was going to kill someone. Probably myself.

For allergy sufferers, it’s recommended that you use the Neti pot twice a day: once in the morning when you wake up and once an hour before bed to ensure that nothing drips down your throat while you sleep. I’m generally bad with routines, but I figured it would be worth it if it worked.

I won’t lie and say the sensation of pouring water through your nasal passages isn’t strange because it certainly is. I was always the kid that was afraid to jump in the pool without holding my nose, so intentionally putting water somewhere that I’ve avoided for years of my life felt completely wrong. But although the process of using a Neti pot might be foreign, I actually found that there’s something calming about it. Standing at the bathroom sink, tilting my head to one side, watching the water stream out through my nostril … that’s a lovely visual, right?

Since the routine wasn’t something I wanted my roommate to catch me doing, I was left to scurry around my apartment hiding my shiny blue genie lamp. I’d bought a Neti pot kit at CVS for a mere $14.99, and it came with 50 helpfully premeasured packets of a sodium chloride and sodium bicarbonate mixture to add to eight ounces of lukewarm water. The water should be previously boiled or distilled, of course, and feels best when it is heated up just a little.

The biggest piece of advice I can give is to make sure you keep your head tilted forward when rinsing. If you lean your head back, you’ll quickly realize why this is important to remember: the salty solution will run down your throat instead of through your nasal passages. I was amused to find that using a Neti pot actually takes some coordination, something I normally lack, but with practice I was easily able to master it.

Gross spoiler alert: I also found that it is most helpful to blow your nose before switching to the other nostril. By blowing your nose between flushes, as well as after you’re finished, you’ll be sure to cleanse your nose most thoroughly. This will rid your system of more allergens and therefore relieve more of your symptoms.

I’m happy to report that a week after I began using my Neti pot (in conjunction with taking my allergy medicine, I should add), my symptoms have completely disappeared. It’s a great feeling to be able to enjoy the blossoming plants rather than hide away indoors.

A Neti pot is often confused with Aladdin’s lamp, and I think people might be onto something. Maybe there is something magical involved after all.