Cleaning Nasal Passages With Salt Water

Instead of using a decongestant medicine to relieve a stuffy nose, you can try using a saltwater solution (saline solution). This solution may help you for a short period of time by:

To make the solution, mix ½ teaspoon (2.5 g) of salt and ½ teaspoon (2.5 g) of baking soda in 1 cup (237 mL) of distilled water (at room temperature). If you use tap water, boil it first to sterilize it, and then let it cool until it is lukewarm. You may also purchase a saline solution at your pharmacy.

Gently squirt the solution into your nose. Aim the water toward the back, not the top, of your head. The water will run through the nasal passages and into the back of your throat. Spit it out through your mouth. It will not hurt you if you swallow some of the water. To squirt the solution, you can:

  • Use an all-rubber ear syringe, which you can buy at a drug store.
  • Use a medical syringe without the needle.
  • Use a water-flosser device, such as the Waterpik, set on low.
  • Pour the solution into your hand and "snuff" it up through your nose, one nostril at a time.
  • Pour the solution in a plastic bottle, such as an empty nasal spray bottle. This method is less effective than the other methods.
By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Rohit K Katial, MD - Allergy and Immunology
Last Revised February 8, 2012

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