Nasal congestion, whether from the common cold or flu, or chronic allergies, can be the most annoying symptom for many people. A runny nose is usually treated with over the counter nasal sprays such as oxymetazoline (Afrin), which works well for up to half a day; this medicine is good for 3-5 days maximum. Another medicine common in almost all combination pills (Tylenol Cold, Bufferin Cold…) is pseudoephedrine. This is called Sudafed in many countries. This pill is very effective at drying the sinuses — almost too effective, as people feel very dried out, also in the mouth. Still, it’s probably the most effective treatment for congestion.
But a healthier treatment is simple, inexpensive nasal saline. A seawater-type spray is very common in treating children and newborns, since the OTC medicine Sudafed isn’t considered very effective or safe for children under 24 months.
There’s also an even better way to use nasal saline; instead of a small spray, you can completely irrigate the nose with a small bottle (~200 cc each nostril) of warm salt water. Many people with chronic congestion from allergies, or repeated sinus infections, love this treatment and swear that it cuts down on their frequency of infections and need for medicines.
Buy One, Or Make One Yourself
One of my professors back in San Francisco, pulmonologist Dr KC Mehta, a few years ago became very wealthy simply by repackaging a small plastic squeeze bottle with some salt packets, and now his NeilMed Saline Rinse packages are in every American pharmacy. There’s also another style of bottle called a neti pot, which some find more comfortable.
You can also make your own system. All you need is a medium-size squeeze bottle (try Muji), or even a large 50cc medical syringe, or a bulb. The syringe or pick should be sterilized frequently or replaced every two to three weeks to avoid contamination and infection.
The recipe: Use a clean one-quart glass jar. Fill with warm (not hot) boiled tap or bottled water. Add 1 to 1 1/2 heaping teaspoons of non-iodized salt (usually not table salt, as it almost always has iodine which makes this less effective; pickling/canning salt is good). Add 1 teaspoon baking soda (pure bicarbonate). Mix and store at room temperature. Then, each time you pour out some into a small bowl and fill your syringe/bottle. You should throw away leftover solution after 1 week.
How often? Once or twice a day is best; twice a day is best for chronic problems.
“Fun For The Whole Family”?
OK, that was a little joke. Many people get grossed out thinking about rinsing their nose. It’s not for everyone, but it’s worth a try since it’s essentially free and has no major side effects. And anyone with chronic nasal issues or frequent colds here in Beijing should think about trying this as a daily routine.