Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Death By Neti Pot

Click here, then read.

I stand in front of the bathroom sink, preparing to use my new Neti Pot for the first time. Plugged sinuses have driven me to this madness. I've tried nasal spray, which works, but it leaves my inner face tight and dry, resulting in a headache. I’ve also heard that nasal spray can be addictive; I don’t want that. “She lived a good life, but succumbed in the end to her nasal spray addiction." Not me.

I open the box and remove the contents: a small blue plastic teapot, a bunch of saline packets, and a small sheet of directions. I’m going to voluntarily pour water into my nose and these are all the directions I get? turns quickly into Eight steps? I have to go through eight frickin’ steps just to use this thing? I read the first few directions and understand that I am to empty a saline packet into the pot, add warm water, shake it up, then insert the spout into my right nostril. My nostrils are virgins. I take them aside and explain what’s going to happen; they aren’t happy, but they’re willing to do this for me.

Back at the sink, I look at the sheet of directions again. In a small picture, a model is shown using a Neti Pot. She’s a pretty girl, but she has a Neti Pot spout stuck up her nose. I flip the directions over and see the same girl—wearing a different outfit—with a Neti squeeze bottle stuck up her nose. She seems to like the bottle more than the pot because she’s smiling in this one. I wonder how she got this modeling job and if it paid well.

I resume reading the directions through #5, the most important one because it explains in three paragraphs how to actually use the Neti Pot without drowning. I empty one saline packet into the pot and add the correct amount of icky Phoenix tap water. I don’t drink this water…why am I willing to pour it into my nose? I just want this over with.

The first problem arises quickly: Like the model, I’m supposed to daintily hold the Neti Pot by its handle while at the same time using my thumb to cover a hole on the cap to “control the flow of water”. That would be fine if I was a piano player or had man-hands, but my hands are nerve-damaged from thirty years of typing; they are good for flapping to show happiness, and not much else. I grip the pot like a baseball and my thumb is naturally poised over the cap’s hole. Problem solved.

I gear up to start pouring water into my nose, a most unnatural act. I stare at my reflection in the mirror: my virgin nostrils quiver. I remember that my niece and my brother swear by their Neti Pots and highly recommend them. The warning Your mother never made you use a Neti Pot runs through my head, but I forge ahead.

With my head tilted over the sink, I raise the Neti Pot to my nose. I insert the spout’s tip into my right nostril; who knew she would be so accommodating. Tentatively, I slide my thumb halfway off the cap’s little hole to allow some water to enter one side of my nose. I pray that gravity will work, allowing the water to safely run out the other side instead of into my lungs. I called 911 when my gall bladder went out; I don’t want to call again for Neti Pot use gone wrong.

In fits and starts, saline solution makes it way from my right nostril to my left nostril and out to the sink. I get braver and allow more water to flow through my nose. I’m Neti Potting! My cat jumps up to sit on the vanity and bats her paw at the Neti Pot product now freely running out of my nose and into the sink. “Stop that,” I say. “Get down, go away.” I don’t need her frolicking in my DNA.

I am in my Neti Pot groove when I realize that the pot is still nearly full and I have a long way to go. I need to push myself harder; specifically, I need to stop leaning away from the Neti Pot. I straighten back up, resume the tilt position, and resolve to take whatever the Neti Pot has to give. I get distracted again by my image in the bathroom cabinet mirrors: such an awkward girl. I close my eyes and try to relax with a blue spout shoved up one side of my nose and toxic waste pouring out the other. Only a small amount goes to greet my tonsils, and I tiny-drown just once.

Finally, I’ve done it. I have Neti Potted! And my sinuses already feel better: they are moist and nearly clear. I can inhale and exhale through my nose without nasal spray or other over-the-counter allergy meds.

Feeling proud, I set the empty Netti Pot down on the vanity, pat my face with a towel, and decide to read the rest of the directions. I come to the last one, #8: “Repeat the procedure on the other side.”

What!? All that hassle all over again? Seriously? I stomp around the bathroom for awhile before rolling my eyes and surrendering to the Neti Pot once more. This time goes more smoothly and soon I’m really done, breathing even more easily through my nose.

I love my new Neti Pot, my little blue genie lamp from which flows the sinus solution I’ve been looking for all my life. While I resisted it at first, I found that the more I relaxed and relinquished control, the more my Neti Pot worked its magic. Success was all about confidence and angle, which I think can be said about a lot of things.


  1. "She’s a pretty girl, but she has a Neti Pot spout stuck up her nose."

    They'll be saying that about you now, you know. :-)


    p.s. LOVE my neti pot. It's what keeps the inside of my nose healthy during winter, which is an unreasonably dry time of year.

  2. You know what's extra awesome? When you don't use it PREVENTIVELY like you're supposed to, so you wait until you're all nasty and congested and then you're so plugged up the saline solution goes in your nostril.......and out your EYE.

    Hypothetically, of course.

  3. Although the idea of putting water up my own nose with ANY device completely freaks me out, my son has been using Sinus Rinse since he was about 13. He is a veteran of chronic sinusitis and three extensive surgeries, and his pulmonologist let him know that regular rinsing is essential for avoiding #4. Hats off to both of you --I'm sure I would drown.

  4. Very amusing, thank you for writing a realistic memoir to the Neti Pot debate. It is important to read the true struggle and drama of using the Neti Pot for the first time as opposed to the overstimulated assurances of the fallen.

    I wish to start using one, now that I've moved to the polluted carbon monoxide air of California from the fresher than thou lands of Alaska.