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March 2008    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 34, No. 3   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Shooting Saltwater Up Your Nose

from the March, 2008 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Is your nose stuffed up enough that diving isnít appealing, or even to the point where congestion may dangerously interfere with equalization of the ears?

It may sound a bit zany and gross, but the evidence, both published and anecdotal, largely supports the salubrious effects of saline irrigation on both nasal membrane drying and congestion (e.g., from long airplane flights, breathing hyper-dry scuba gasses and allergens). Such irrigation shrinks the mucus blanket and flushes out the excess, reducing nasal irritation and swelling.

There are scores of salt-based OTC nasal washes on the market such as Sinucleanse, BreathEase and an array of NeilMed products. Many come with a soft syringe. Or you can purchase special tips that attach to oral hygiene devices (e.g., the WaterPik NA-2 Gentle Sinus Rinse).

Many divers choose a simple home remedy that is cheaper and works just as well. Boil two cups of tap water for 10 minutes, stir in one teaspoon of salt (refined sea salt is recommended to avoid additives) and one-quarter teaspoon of baking soda (sodium bicarbonate). Adding more salt than recommended can do more harm than good, so donít overdo it.

After the brew has cooled to lukewarm, draw it into a clean nasal or ear syringe until full, then lean over the sink, squeeze gently and allow the solution to run through the nasal passages. Sniff it in, spit it out, then gently blow your nose. Repeat with the second nostril. Again, donít overdo it - - one or two treatments a day should be sufficient. And go make your next dive.

- - Doc Vikingo

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