Shoving the business end of a “neti pot” up the nose is an activity that cannot be taken lightly. Explicit ancient cave drawings, which I’ve somehow been able to create, with the help of my 16-year-old son, tell a cautionary tale. (See Figure 1 below.) Indeed, next to the furnace, the neti pot is the most dangerous household item we own. It comes with lots of safety instructions, based on warnings from the FDA and the CDC. Most alarmingly, in some instances, improper neti pot use can result in brain-eating amoeba. (This time, I’m not kidding. See this article from the CDC-and this one from the FDA.)
However, I did not know about the brain-eating amoeba when I tried using the neti pot for the first time. Nate did, but he didn’t tell me. He just oversaw the whole process and I kept accusing him of micromanaging. “I can read the directions myself,” I told him, but he wasn’t having it. He knew that if I had seen the words, “brain-eating amoeba,” I would have used the following description to try to hawk the pot on the neighborhood Facebook: “Delightful blue color. Amoeba not included. Does not explode.” Within seconds, I would have had various offers, and the neti pot would be gone—and Nate would have to continue to hear me say, “I can’t smell a thing! Nate, describe everything you’re smelling right now. What odors am I emitting? Would you describe them as “floral” or “pungent” because I have no idea?” He was tired of that song and dance and there comes a time, after 19 years of marriage, where lifting your arms to have your husband smell your armpits is no longer exciting. So, he was hoping the neti pot would save our marriage.
Here are the steps I followed:
1) I waited about 10-15 minutes for Nate to go to the store and buy distilled water. I had no idea why he insisted on distilled water at this point. Were we going to celebrate with some kind of drink that required distilled water? Was he going to wash out the beer-making equipment immediately after? Would we have home-brew by Christmas? What kind of magical occasion was this? Apparently, the brain-eating bacteria live in tap water. The stomach can kill the bacteria, but the nose lining cannot. Distilled water, therefore, is recommended for neti pot use, but boiling tap water would work out just as well. However, Nate did not trust my water-boiling skills because he’s seen me shout, “close enough!” when making eggs.
2) I had to use the distilled water to clean out the neti pot, according to the neti pot instructions. “Great—more things to clean besides my nose,” I thought to myself.
3) Next, I could add a packet of some kind of pre-measured salt solution packet into the neti pot. The manufacturers of the neti pot insist that this solution is the safest and most effective. The “kit” Nate bought came with thousands of these packets, so I doubt we’ll run out anytime soon. I’m also hoping that a stopped up nose is not a long-term “mid-life” crisis that leads to flashy and sporty neti-pot accessories purchases.
4) I could then add just 8 ounces of distilled water to the pot and let the solution dissolve. I was supposed to place the lid on the neti pot and gently swish the water/solution around, but the solution stuck to the bottom of the pot, which I believe is a metaphor for life. In fact, I think I’ve read a fortune cookie slip that says something to that effect: “Sometimes swirling the neti pot around is not enough to dissolve the solution. Take matters into your own hands, but sterilize them first.” So, when Nate wasn’t looking, I grabbed a spoon from the kitchen drawer and stirred the solution. I was probably risking grave consequences because “spoons” are not mentioned in the neti pot instructions.
5) Next, I could gently tilt my head to the right and bend over a sink. I’m pretty sure the sink should be sterilized too, but ours had breakfast dishes in it still. (If this happens to you, just close your eyes and don’t look at the breakfast dishes.)
6) Nate told me to gently place the opening of the teapot in my right nostril, making sure to completely cover the nostril. He also instructed me to open my mouth and breathe through my mouth.
7) Finally, I could start pouring the solution into my right nostril so that it would flow directly out the left nostril, which is not a soothing or comforting experience:
“Nate! Is this what water boarding is like? I’m water boarding myself!”
“Just keep your mouth open!”
“This isn’t natural! Why can’t I just go to the ocean or something and let a wave just go up through both nostrils at the same time? That’s why there’s an ocean! The Puget Sound is just 15-20 minutes away. Why didn’t we just go there?”
“Just repeat it on the other side. You’ll be fine.”
“Ugh, there’s more! Eight ounces is a lot of water for one nose. It’s too much!”
However, I was able to breathe easier and, within a few days, I could smell pizza baking and cinnamon. I could rest easier knowing I’d be able to smell the furnace—or the neti pot—if either one caught fire. I’d no longer have to say things like, “Nate, is anything burning?” every five seconds. Now, I could just draw in a deep breath and say, “Ahhhh. I smell the bittersweet tart aroma of cranberry muffins, baking in the oven, mingling with an underlying note of sweaty socks, which are drying on the musty windowsill, just above the cat vomit.”
Your turn: What are home remedies you use for common colds or minor health problems?