Nasal Hygiene


Here in the Southern hemisphere Christmas falls in summer and for many people the season brings more than good wishes. For people who suffer from Hay Fever or Allergic Rhinitis, summer can turn into a nightmare.  New Zealand with its long grass pollen season stretching from September to March can test the patience of many sufferers.The word “hygiene” will make most of us think about having a shower, washing our hair, feet or maybe any other body part that could be a bit smelly!!!.  Yet how often do we stop to think about cleaning our noses? In westerns cultures nose cleaning is not consider part of our daily hygiene routine.

The nose is an amazing structure working hard for us every hour of the day.  As well as being the organ that enables us to smell, it also acts as a filter to clean, moisturise and warm up the air that we breathe in.  As such the nose acts as the first line of defense against inhaled invaders.

When irritants or allergens, such as pollen enter the nose, the tiny hairs that line the passageways are meant to propel them to the back of the throat to be swallowed and destroyed by stomach acid.  In addition, problematic molecules are detected by the body’s defence system – and in some people this triggers specific cells of the immune system (“mast cells” and “basophils”) to start producing chemicals such as histamine to fight the invader.  Production of histamine brings about an inflammatory response where the lining of the nose becomes irritated and increases the production of mucous leading to a runny nose, itching and coughing or sneezing.

Regular daily nasal rinses (also called nasal washing, nasal douche, sinus rinsing, sinus lavage, and sinus irrigation) with solutions that have the same concentration of salts as the human body (isotonic) – helps to keep the lining of the nose clean and ready for action.

An added benefit is that a clean and clear nose facilitates nose rather than mouth breathing.  In traditional Ayurvedic and Yoga practice, a neti pot is used to clean the nose and thus assist in the management of respiratory ailments such as asthma, bronchitis and allergies.  A similar traditional muslim practice achieves the same result by simply sniffing up water from a cupped hand and blowing it back out again.

Regular neti practice helps to balance the right and left nostrils and hence the corresponding brain hemispheres.  Interestingly, on a spiritual level, neti practice stimulates the Anja Chakra or third eye, which is situated behind the eyebrow center at the top of the spine.  Use of nasal irrigation has a cooling and soothing effect that can alleviate anxiety and depression and overall supports the creation of a state of balance and harmony in the brain.

There are several methods to perform a nasal wash. I personally like to use neti, which I have learnt and practice as part Yoga.  Neti involves pouring salt-balanced water into one nostril and letting it flow out of the other nostril.  It requires a neti pot and specific nose blowing afterwards.  The practice takes less than 5 minutes.

An easier, and to many, more acceptable way of doing nasal wash can be achieved with a Sinus Rinse Kit.  These are readily available in most pharmacies and include a bottle and a supply of pre-prepared powder sachets to create your isotonic solution.  Once the mixture is prepared, the bottle is inserted in one nostril and gently squeezed so that the water comes out of the other nostril.  This method involves low pressure and large volumes of water; it is easy to do even with children. As the warmed solution passes through the nasal passages it flushes out not only allergy-causing pollens, dust and dirt, but pollutants, mucous and bacteria-fostering encrusted material as well.

It is important to perform the technique correctly – get guidance from a qualified breathing practitioner if you are in doubt.  Do not over-rinse, or you could remove the protective mucous lining of your nasal passages, causing dryness and irritation.  It is also important to clean your nasal rinsing equipment properly after each use and replace a plastic pot as often as you’d replace your toothbrush.

In summary, you can expect the following benefits from incorporating nasal washing into your regular hygiene routine:

  • Fresher breath – bad breath (halitosis) is sometimes caused by post-nasal drip
  • Less nasal congestion – you will be able to breathe more easily
  • Flushes out allergens – experience less symptoms, and less risk of secondary sinus infection
  • Support healthy nasal passages – by keeping the nose clean, the cells that line it can work better
  • Smell the roses!
  • Improve your sense of taste.  Yes!  Your sense of taste is adversely affected if you can’t smell properly.

With Christmas coming, treat yourself or someone in you family with learning a skill that will help you to breathe better for life. Try a nose wash!!


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Categorised: Grown Ups
Please note that Kiwi Families is not intended to replace individualised, specialist advice that you receive from your doctor and other health professionals.
Please note that this article represents the views of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of Kiwi Family Media Ltd.

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