The Life: The Neti Pot

by Rachel on October 17, 2011

Friday afternoon, I found myself in a considerable amount of pain. It wasn’t quite a headache…like, my face hurt. Finally I realized that this must be my sinuses. I wondered if it was time to take your advice and try a Neti Pot.

In all honesty, I wasn’t quite sure how a Neti Pot worked. It’s one of those things I’ve been vaguely aware of for a while as a silly thing that people do, but I hadn’t ever seen commercials or anything. I threw it out to my coworkers; like me, they had heard good things about it but hadn’t ever actually tried it or thought about how it worked. So then I made the mistake of looking for a demonstration on YouTube.

Moments after announcing that I would be looking for a video, my coworkers laughed as they heard me screeching all sorts of versions of “OH MY GODDDDDD!” over at my desk. If you hadn’t known what I was watching, you might have thought I was viewing “Two Girls, One Cup” for the first time. I was traumatized. “Don’t look at this video,” I told everyone. “If I do use the Neti Pot, I don’t want you to imagine me…doing that.”

(Seriously, writing this post is not easy; I’d rather write about my experience with a sex toy than publicly describe what it was like using this thing.)

If you haven’t used one or seen how it works via the World Wide Web, let me tell you what you’ve been missing while sparing you some of the disturbing visuals. It started off OK. There was a neutral-seeming woman circa 1994 in a pink shirt. I thought it was going to be infomercial-style and was waiting for a man to shout, “SINUSES GOT YOU DOWN?!?!” but a soothing voiceover came on instead. I watched the woman put the little teapot to her nose and tip her head to the side. OK, no big deal. The soothing voiceover continued as she stared blankly forward in a zombie-like state, tipped her head to the side, and appeared to drool from her fucking nostril. The stream of drool coupled with the blank stare was too much for me; I felt like a little kid who had just walked in as her old, age-spotted great-grandma pulled down her pants and started peeing on the kid’s bedroom floor (true story). I was traumatized.

I don’t know what I thought. I guess I thought you poured the water in and it…didn’t run right back out…the other side?

I swore I’d never think about this torture device again, but the pain in my head persisted all weekend. I took allergy medicine and extra strength ibuprofen, but it wouldn’t go away. Finally I decided to give myself, as Eric described it, “a nasal enema.” (He described it as such after he accidentally saw the back of the box in line at Walgreens and therefore saw the friendly, cartoonish drawing of the woman peeing out of her nose. I intended to keep him in the dark about what I was going to do to myself. Sorry, I don’t want my boyfriend having a mental image of me doing certain things like getting a bikini wax, poking at blemishes on my face, or shooting snot rockets for medical purposes. We’re shut-the-door-when-you-pee kind of people, so a steady stream of water coming out of my nose was definitely going to require locking.)

Anyway, Walgreens had a bunch of options that all seemed pretty similar — around $14 with 30-60 salt packets included — but I chose the Waterpik Neti Pot over the one that looked like it was the last one on the shelf at the dollar store. (Note to product developers: fonts matter!)  Once I got home, I warmed up some water, mixed in the salt packet, and prepared to be repulsed. “I don’t want to see myself like this,” I told Eric. “I’m afraid I’ll be so disgusted I won’t even be able to masturbate.”

I locked myself in my bathroom and assumed the position: I let my eyes go glassy and my mouth hang open slightly like I was a backup dancer in the “Thriller” video. I let the water flow for about one second before I got freaked out not by the feeling of drowning, but by the drooling freak staring back at me. Who was this girl and why was she expelling sea water out of her eyes, nose, and mouth? (Yes, eyes. Anyone else?) Did she just wash up on a desert island after a stormy shipwreck?

I managed to get through all four ounces on the right side and then switched the pot to the left side where…surprise, surprise, my nasal passage was apparently like a hose with a kink in it. Nothing would come out. It just came right back out the same side, which left me with water all over my face and mouth. Well, now at least I knew why my head felt like it did.

I managed to get a few drops out; the rest flowed down my face like I was a winning athlete in a Gatorade commercial. I dried off and took note of all the sensations in my head and neck. I felt…like I’d gargled in my face. But I felt better somehow. My throat felt sore and salty, but in a kind of good way. My face didn’t feel quite as puffy and swollen. Over the next couple hours, the sensation that I had somehow been sunburned under my skin started to subside and I actually felt a lot better. All right, Neti Pot. I now see that you’re like a Pap smear: violating but necessary.

Unfortunately the good feeling didn’t last as long as I’d hoped, so it’s apparent that I’m going to have to use this thing regularly to start feeling better. But on the other hand, if it works, and I no longer have to buy so many decongestants that the Feds start investigating me for running a meth lab out of my apartment, I guess it’s worth it.

{ 42 comments… read them below or add one }

1 MelissaNibbles October 17, 2011 at 10:12 am

Oh my God. Off to Youtube I go!!

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2 Rachel October 17, 2011 at 10:15 am

Oh my gosh. Neti pot changed my life. Once you get the hang of it you’ll never go back! Sometimes one side does seem more clogged, but if you keep trying it usually gives up and lets you win. It also seems to help if you start by pouring into the side that seems most clogged. And if you need more, um, power- try a squirt bottle like the Sinus Rinse one on this page: http://www.neilmed.com/usa/products.php . My fiance swears it works better than the traditional gravity pour pot deal, but I just end up squeezing it so hard that the water all goes back into my throat. Worth a shot if you’ve got serious blockage though!

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3 Rachel October 17, 2011 at 10:18 am

I’m such an embarrassment. I get similarly hot and bothered when talking about Breathe Right strips. Sigh. haha

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4 Rachel October 17, 2011 at 5:42 pm

HA. We all have our things!

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5 Rachel October 17, 2011 at 10:18 am

HA, I used one of these a few months ago when I was sick, and it really did help tremendously. I had the same experience as you though – water running down my face, salt in my mouth but one I got it down pat it actually wasn’t that bad, and REALLY cleared out my sinuses. Good stuff, good stuff.

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6 Lauren October 17, 2011 at 10:32 am

Oh man, Neti pots are amazing. I use mine every day during allergy season to ward off the nasties. You’ll get used to it. I also think it’s easier to do it in the shower. Try it!

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7 Rachel October 17, 2011 at 10:33 am

Probs…then you don’t have to look at yourself as you do it!

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8 Alli October 17, 2011 at 10:37 am

I love love love my NetiPot — it’s the only thing that makes me feel better when my allergies are acting up and I can’t afford to be zoned out on the couch for 12 hours after taking a Benedryl. And maybe I’m just a disgusting weirdo, but I dig the feeling of it flushing everything out — “assuming the position” made me laugh pretty hard, though.

You might want to try using only a half pack of the saline solution, or even none at all — at the height of allergy season I’m usually Neti-ing twice a day (once when I wake up and once before I go to bed) and I know my nasal passages get really irritated and dry if I use too much saline. Just a thought, and it might decrease the sunburned innards feelings!

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9 Rachel October 17, 2011 at 10:40 am

Oooh thanks! Well actually my innards felt more sunburned before; afterward they felt a bit soothed, like I had taken an oatmeal bath. (Except my throat, which burned, but in a kind of good way, like I had just cleaned a cut with alcohol.)

I can see enjoying it…kinda like some people enjoy digging out ingrown hairs or other gross things like that!

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10 Alexandra October 17, 2011 at 10:38 am

My boyfriend has had trouble with his sinuses for years, so I bought him a Neti Pot a while back and now he uses it twice a day when he’s feeling congested. I was weirded out the first time I watched him use it because, well, you described it pretty accurately. Overall my BF/your fellow Thriller backup dancer feels better after using it, so I’d say give it another try.

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11 Diane October 17, 2011 at 10:43 am

I’m glad you found something that worked!

My mom has used a Neti Pot for years. When she explained how they work, I basically made this face: http://media.tumblr.com/tumblr_lszp5tx6dv1qzr77o.gif

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12 Rachel October 17, 2011 at 11:00 am

Literal LOL.

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13 Rachel's Mom October 17, 2011 at 9:25 pm

I did a LOL, too!

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14 Holly October 17, 2011 at 10:44 am

I just found and started reading your blog. And I also just found neti pot! I posted briefly about using one last week. I think it takes some getting used to for sure.

I had read not to use it if your airway is completely blocked. There has to be some flow to get the pot to work.

Also try closing your eyes when you do it. I drooled as well. No help for you there!

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15 Rachel October 17, 2011 at 11:00 am

I saw that cautionary tip…I just didn’t know my airway was completely blocked until I poured half the water in on that side and it just came right back out! Took me a second to get what was going on…I’m terribly ignorant in the ways of my sinuses. I need a trip in the Magic School Bus to understand what the hell is going on in there!

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16 Brandi October 17, 2011 at 10:47 am

I use my neti pot frequently and didnt think it was a big deal to have water running from my nose so reading your experience was hilarious. This could be because I was used to the sensation before I actually used a neti pot…many hiccup remedys gone wrong = lots of water out of my nose.

Plus a little weird discomfort is so worth not feeling like someone punched you in the face.

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17 Pamela Wall October 17, 2011 at 11:00 am

Not to be a downer, but you gotta be careful with Neti Pots. If you’re too stuffed up, the saline doesn’t drain completely and, let me tell you, the resulting ear infection is not fun. Use sparingly and with caution.

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18 janetha October 17, 2011 at 11:27 am

i love the neti pot. can i just share this with you? http://mealsandmoves.files.wordpress.com/2009/07/img_1901.jpg

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19 Rachel October 17, 2011 at 12:00 pm

LOL you are a brave one!

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20 Mel October 17, 2011 at 11:35 am

omg giggle central over here! this is my first time learning about the pot and I’ve been just dealing with allergy snot face for years- maybe it’s about time for me to consider the alternative..

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21 Nicole October 17, 2011 at 12:04 pm

Oh my gosh0- I used one of those for the first time last year. But I had the kind in a squishy bottle, so you didn’t just pour, you squirted – so when it hit the “kink in the hose” it just pushed through (gross and tmi, but also good to know, right?). Anyway- it made me feel so much better! No more feeling like I got punched in the face!

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22 Rachel October 17, 2011 at 12:18 pm

In case you were thinking to yourself “Oh I wish there was a rap about netti pots,” well today is your lucky day: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fqzUwnr2QAo My co-worker is an extra in this video and will randomly burst into song about it at work…something to sing to yourself when you do it next…

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23 Rachel October 17, 2011 at 5:45 pm

THIS.

OMG.

“My nose holds flows” indeed.

AWESOME!

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24 Rachel October 17, 2011 at 5:46 pm

Ahhhh, I just got to the end and quite possibly the greatest line ever!!! I am cracking up at this.

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25 Chandra October 17, 2011 at 12:21 pm

I love the Netti Pot! Like someone mentioned above, the water doesn’t always completely drain if you are really congested. I’ve never had an ear infection as a result, but the remaining water has decided to come out at inopportune times. Also, NEVER use dissolved table salt in lieu of the salt packages – lesson learned the hard way on that one.

Everything has pros and cons – for me the pros outweigh the cons. I haven’t used antibiotics for a sinus infection since I started using the Netti Pot.

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26 Jordan October 17, 2011 at 12:55 pm

After reading this, I kind of feel the same way I did when I read your IUD post: horrified but intrigued to try it for myself.

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27 Rachel October 17, 2011 at 5:47 pm

I’m going to take that as a compliment! Ha.

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28 Phoebe October 17, 2011 at 1:29 pm

Glad it worked at least somewhat and hope you find a complete sinus remedy soon! I have always been slightly intrigued by the idea because I like doing gross procedures on myself, but similar to you, have been freaked out by the idea of pouring water through my nose. BUT I read online (I think on a Hairpin post about neti pots?) that you shouldn’t use one if you have a deviated septum, which I do (apparently it is really painful). So I have never dared to try it myself.

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29 cookie October 17, 2011 at 2:06 pm

I don’t find that thing so bad. But to be honest, I never had the idea to watch a youtube video or myself in the mirror doing that :D
But that’s nothing compared to what my sister did – quite a few years back she had a bad headache like you because of her sinuses, and she heard that salt water would help. Since we didn’t have a neti pot (we didn’t even know such thing existed), she took the salt water and sort of snorted it through her nose. If you ever had water running through your sinuses when swimming, you can imagine how painful that must have been.

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30 Megan C. October 17, 2011 at 2:19 pm

As much as I hate using the neti pot, I do love the results. And it does seem to help. I’m not as dedicated about using it as I should be. From what I understand regular use can help with allergies, sinus, and general health.

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31 jenna k October 17, 2011 at 2:47 pm

i’ve been so intrigued to try using a neti pot, because my roommate uses hers all the time, but i’m so afraid. the first time i watched her do it, i got really freaked out too. i really need to get over it though, because i have annoying allergies to something in every season.

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32 Amanda @ Click. The Good News October 17, 2011 at 3:05 pm

Painful but occasionally necessary. Glad you are feeling better. It works even better in the shower and less mess to clean up :)

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33 Rosy October 17, 2011 at 5:35 pm

Rachel, only you could write a post about decongestants leaves me L-ing OL. Those bitches at GOMI are selling you short.

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34 Madelyn October 17, 2011 at 5:57 pm

This post left me laughing out loud alone in my apartment. The neti pot is fucking weird at first, but it does get less weird the more you use it. I never felt like a zombie though.

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35 Erin Kaye October 17, 2011 at 7:38 pm

Neti pot freaks me out but I LOVE the squeeze bottle. I’ve never had a problem with it not working, even on the worst days. Something about the pressure must help. But the one piece of advice I would give someone before trying is to NOT watch yourself cuz its WEIRD… sorry I said that too late. The second thing would be to not bend over for a few minutes afterwards, or the leftover water will drip out of your nose. Not awesome.

p.s. once you use up those packets, you can make the solution yourself with salt and a pinch of baking soda. Might as well not waste all that packaging!

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36 Kristin October 17, 2011 at 8:15 pm

I laughed out loud multiple times reading this! Seriously though, I’m so glad you found some relief from it :)

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37 Erica October 17, 2011 at 10:09 pm

OMG. Must get one now! I am the allergy queen! I wanted to try it before but now I’m convinced. Also, I had to (try to) explain to my boyfriend why I was LOLing throughout this post. He didn’t get it.

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38 Erin October 18, 2011 at 4:54 pm

I’m glad you tried the Neti Pot. They really are awesome, but disturbing. My boyfriend is utterly disgusted by it and will never use it. BUT, I do use it up to twice a day when I’m really miserable. I also prefer to do it in the shower–and then you wouldn’t have to look at yourself!
Also, I did discover a new medicine-Advil congestion that actually does not make me feel drugged at all and helps a lot. It’s the only thing that doesn’t make me comatose.

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39 Nicole @ Giraffelegs October 18, 2011 at 7:40 pm

you are brave…that pot terrifies me..

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40 steph October 18, 2011 at 8:17 pm

this is totally unrelated, but can you pleeeease do a post on your extensions? I’m really interested to hear about the process!

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41 Rachel October 18, 2011 at 8:52 pm

Yes…it’s on my to-do list, I swear!!

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42 Samantha December 19, 2011 at 1:51 pm

I just saw this article and remembered you’d done a post on this fairly recently, so wanted to share. Might be worth a PSA to your readers if it really is a problem: http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2011/12/19/143960631/second-neti-pot-death-from-amoeba-prompts-tap-water-warning?ft=1&f=1001&sc=tw&utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter

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