When you're doing your spring cleaning, don't forget about your nose. Nasal irrigation is a cheap and easy way for people with spring allergies, nasal congestion, stuffy noses and post-nasal drip to get relief, says Melissa Pynnonen, MD, co-director of the Michigan Sinus Center and an assistant professor in the University of Michigan's department of otolaryngology,

How To Perform Nasal Irrigation

Nasal irrigation involves rinsing the nose and nasal passages with a solution made from a quarter-teaspoon of salt (non-iodized, if possible), eight ounces of warm tap water and a quarter-teaspoon of baking soda.

There are a number of ways to administer the solution. For people who've never done nasal irrigation, Dr. Pynnonen recommended using an eight-ounce squeeze bottle (specially designed to fit the nose and available at drugstores) and squirting four ounces of the solution into each nostril. The solution exits through the opposite nostril. Opening your mouth and making a "K" sound will prevent the solution from coming out of your mouth.

Some people use a neti pot, which looks like a miniature teapot. When using a neti pot, the solution is poured, rather than squeezed, into the nose. Turkey basters or syringes, like those used to suction a baby's nose, also work.

Benefits Of Nasal Irrigation

"For most patients, the benefit of nasal irrigation is that it does a great job of treating symptoms that otherwise aren't well treated with medicine," said Dr. Pynnonen. "Nasal irrigation can be considered a first-line treatment for common nasal and sinus symptoms. It's often more effective than medications," she concluded.

Nasal irrigation alone may be sufficient to control mild allergy symptoms in some people, but others may need to use medications in addition to nasal irrigation.

So long as children are old enough to cooperate, it's safe to try nasal irrigation with them, using a smaller amount of solution, said Dr. Pynnonen.

No Prescription Needed

Newly over-the-counter Zyrtec provides a superior degree of relief from allergy symptoms, such as runny nose and sneezing, and can be helpful for itchy skin rashes as well. It is effective in a larger percentage of patients when compared with Claritin.

Caution: Zyrtec has been shown to cause more drowsiness than Claritin.

Soothing Sinus Relief

Antibiotics aren't always the best treatment A for sinusitis, says Donald A. Leopold, MD. Sinusitis can be caused by viruses and/or bacteria, or it can be an ongoing inflammation from viral colds, fungal infections or allergies. Antibiotics fight only bacterial infections. For most cases of sinusitis, saline lavage—rinsing saline solution through the nose and sinuses—provides some relief as the body fights the infection. Discuss this procedure with your doctor. Some patients may need oral or topical steroids, antifungal drugs, allergy therapy or even surgery to get relief.

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