The Joys of Nasal Irrigation

Photo credit: Lori Duff
Photo credit: Lori Duff

Now that I am middle aged and overweight enough to be able to carve a middling-sized yellow lab out of the extra weight hanging off my body, I find that I have begun to snore.  I don’t know how much of this has to do with the aging process, or the gaining-weight process, or if that is unrelated and it has more to do with the fact that I live in metropolitan Atlanta and this is spring.

There are few things more beautiful than spring in the deep south.  Everything blooms.  Even the weeds are pretty.  Things are lush and colorful, and you see everything through a yellow green haze.  The crayon closest to that color is called “spring green,” not because it matches the tender young leaves emerging from hibernation, but rather the pollen that covers everything.  This pollen is visible.  You can scoop it off your car in handfuls.  It fills your eyes, throat, and nose.  There are days when I swear it blocks out the sun.

The human body was not designed to withstand this kind of assault.  If you look at a grain of pollen under a microscope, it looks like some variation of ball with sharp pokey things sticking out at all angles.  If you wear contact lenses, you might as well just rake your cornea with a fork for all the comfort you will experience.  The immune system’s response to this invading, prickly army is to have all the tissues in your head swell to repel the invaders, and when that doesn’t work, to catch them in as much sticky fluid as your poor little overwrought mucus glands can produce so they don’t filter into your brain and cloud your thinking.  I think your head suffers the most because it has the most holes in it exposed to the elements.

If you didn’t have allergies before you came to Atlanta in April, you will soon enough.

The only kinds of medications that give me any relief make me stupid tired.  The kind of stupid tired where you are talking on your phone while trying to get out the door and announce to the person you are talking to that you can’t leave the house yet because you can’t find your phone.  So those meds are out.  But many days my head feels so full of funk that if it were possible to install a little spigot on my cheek or right above my eye to release the pressure I would do it no matter how ridiculous I looked.  So I looked for alternative remedies.

The concept of the Neti Pot made perfect sense to me, even if the concept skeeved me out in equal measures.  For those of you unfamiliar with what a Neti Pot is, it looks like an Aladdin’s lamp kind of thing.  You fill it with purified salt water and, while tilting your head, pour it in one nostril so that it fills up your sinus cavities, gives them a quick rinse, and comes flooding out the other nostril.   Definitely not something I would do recreationally, but, well, desperate times call for desperate measures.  After taking an informal poll on Facebook and finding that a surprising number of my friends had done this (I, apparently, am the only one who discusses these things publicly) and had Very Strong Opinions about methods, brands, and solutions, I went to Walgreen’s and bought myself one.

There were several choices, one of which was battery powered and promised “pulse irrigation.”  I did not choose that one for what I assume are obvious reasons.  I went with what looked like the simplest.  I took it home, and boiled some water in the microwave, so as not to get any tap-water borne brain eating amoebas that close to my innards.  I let the water cool to approximately 98.6 degrees, and mixed it in my little plastic pot with a packet of finely ground salt and whatever other minerals the good folks at Walgreen’s put in there.  Following the directions, and imitating the embarrassed-looking model in the picture, I looked down into the drain, shoved the thing up my right nostril, tilted my head to the left, and poured.

I was warned by the directions to breathe only through my mouth during this procedure.  This seemed a rather obvious piece of advice, as a) it would be counter-intuitive to breathe through your nose while pouring salt water into it and b) I was so nervous about the thought of having that water in the nose feeling for the rest of the night or perhaps drowning myself accidentally that I didn’t breathe at all.  I felt the warm water flood my skull and then begin to pour out of the other side.  When the water stopped flowing, I blew my nose like I was supposed to, and then repeated the procedure on the other side.

I have to say it worked.  I did not get that water in the nose feeling, despite the potful of water in my nose.  My head felt empty and clear of pollutants for the first time in recent memory.  The only bad side effect was that when I stooped down to tie my shoe an hour or so later, a lingering dollop of water came splashing out.  A little salt water on my shoe was a small price to pay for comfort, though, and I recommend this to anyone with nostrils big enough to fit the spout in.  Just don’t ask me to demonstrate it for you.

About Lori Duff 352 Articles
Lori is the author of the bestselling collection of humor essays, "Mismatched Shoes and Upside Down Pizza" currently available exclusively on Amazon. In order to finance her writing habit, she is a practicing lawyer with Jones & Duff, LLC. She is married to Mike Duff, who is a retired DeKalb County Public Safety Officer, and has two amazing children who make cameo embarrassing appearances in her blog posts and who attend Walton County Public Schools. Her legal column, "Legalese", is meant to de-mystify and humanize the Court system. When asked about her writing, Lori says, "Life is too short not to laugh at every available opportunity. My goal is to make myself laugh -- and hopefully you will laugh along with me."

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