With cold and flu season fast approaching (just on the heels of allergy season), it is important to have a healthy immune system and to know what products are out there to help you combat the runny nose and ‘balloon head’ feeling from the common cold like decongestants, a Neti Pot, or home remedies.
Bio 101 – The Nose During A Cold
The common cold, often in the form of the rhinovirus strain, is a viral infection that is spread through the nasal and respiratory system. Your cold is not the virus itself, but rather the body’s immune system response to the virus. Head cold symptoms typically appear about three days after exposure and include sneezing, runny or stuffy nose, fatigue, aches, and occasionally a fever. The virus is contagious for about three days after symptoms appear and usually dissipates within a week.
The nose not only regulates the speed that air enters our system, but works as a filter for bacteria, viruses, dust, and allergens. The inside of the nasal passage is lined with mucus and a layer of cilia (thin, tiny hair-like structures) that protect you from pathogens entering into your system. If the bacterial or viral pathogens get past the mucus lining into the cell lining of the inner nose and throat, your body’s immune system sends out small proteins call cytokines, which deploy T and B cells to eliminate the foreign objects. The same proteins instruct the cells in the nose to generate more mucus to flush the system of harmful bacteria or viruses, give us rhinorrhea (aka: a runny nose).
For Better…or Worse?
Products for cleaning out the nasal system range from over-the-counter decongestants like Sudafed and DayQuil, to relief products that focus on physically removing the accumulated bacteria, such as Neti Pots. While a cold doesn’t often go away on it’s own, it is important to question whether the products we choose to use are helpful, or if they are causing more harm than good.
Frequently enough, a lot of the products that area available and claim to provide relief are not FDA approved or are intended as a placebo effect (meaning they are marketed to make you think they’re helping, but in fact, contain no effective ingredients). It’s always important to check the ingredients list and reviews when it comes to picking medicine not prescribed by a doctor.
The Neti Pot, or Jal Neti therapy is a nasal irrigation practice, which originated in Ayurvedic medicine in India and has been used for thousands of years. Ayurvedic monks that first came up with the Neti Pot did not use if with cold care in mind, but rather a means to clean the internal system of dust and particulates for better breath-based meditation. Net Pots can be a great tool for nasal irrigation, but are they helpful when it comes to the common cold?
Modern-day Neti Pot products hit the shelves as a cold remedy in 2006 after being featured on the Oprah Winfrey show via Dr. Mehemet Oz. With an endorsement like that, it’s no wonder so many turn to the Neti Pot when their head feels like it’s lost in a stuffy fog.
How They Work and Best Practices
Neti Pots are a gravity-based filtration system from which saline water is poured down one nostril via a teapot-like device, and then flows out the other nostril. The saline solution grabs mucus, bacteria, and dust on its way out, leaving the nasal passage open and clean.
While this product is beneficial is beneficial under the proper circumstances, there are a few important things to consider when going down this route for cold relief:
First: What is Your Body Doing to Protect Itself Against Viral Infection?
The excess mucus buildup we described earlier is your body’s immune system working to protect you. The excess mucus is not only carrying the immune system’s proteins and viral pathogens, but it is also creating a barrier between the virus and the inner cell wall of your nose. If you consistently and forcefully clear the nasal passage with saline, you remove the mucus carrying the foreign pathogens and any barriers protecting the cell wall. This means you have no barrier to protect you from any remaining viral pathogens still caught in the nose or new foreign ones around you. In short, using the Neti Pot during a cold might offer you some relief from congestion, but can also increase your chance for infection by removing not just the bad, but the good as well.
Second: Is the Neti Pot Product Safe to Use?
The Neti Pot should only be used with saline water or boiled water and the pot itself should be boiled before use to ensure that no bacteria are hanging around. Tap water should never be used for a Neti pot as it contains minerals, low levels of organisms such as protozoa, bacteria, and amoebas, and often chemicals meant for consumption.
Tap water can also contain the Nawgleria Fowleri Amebae, which as single-celled living organisms commonly found in freshwater lakes and rivers. It is fine to drink this water as your stomach kills off any problems, but it isn’t so great for the cellular wall of the nose. Dirty equipment or bad water is where he Neti Pot can be dangerous, as misuse can lead to unexpected bacterial infections.
According to Eric Mann of the Food and Drug Association (FDA), Neti Pots are “usually safe and effective products when used and cleaned properly.” The Center for Disease and Control (CDC) concurs with the FDA’s perspective on the Neti Pot product as long as the water has been boiled or sterilized and FDA-approved saline is used.
Natural Cold Remedies
When it comes to home cold remedies, there are always alternatives to purchasing the latest fad or using prescription meds.
Steam and eucalyptus oil have been relied upon as natural home remedies for generations without problems (unless you’re allergic to eucalyptus). Simply run a hot shower or boil a pot of water, add a few drops of eucalyptus oil, and breathe deep – no need to worry about amoeba! Inhaling tea tree oil steam also works and is a natural antiseptic. Saline nose spray is also a common option for nasal congestion relief.
If you’re looking for an alternative to nasal flushing but still want to protect yourself, consider using a nose filter. Small, unobtrusive filters, such as O2, fit just inside your nostrils and create a barrier to trap dust, pollen, viruses, and bacteria from entering your system.
Whichever method you choose, make sure you’re eating healthy, exercising, drinking plenty of water, and getting plenty of rest to ensure your immune system is healthy and can do it’s job to naturally fight the common cold.
Interested in trying O2 Nose Filters? Click here for a FREE (+S&H) sample pack to see which size works best for you!