If you rinse your si­nuses, these sim­ple facts can save your life

The Olympian - - Local - BY DEB­BIE COCKRELL dcock­[email protected]­new­stri­bune.com

Tap wa­ter is safe to drink, but us­ing it to rinse your si­nuses with­out first ster­il­iz­ing it can be dan­ger­ous, ac­cord­ing to pub­lic health of­fi­cials.

The Seat­tle Times re­ported Thurs­day that a rare amoeba killed a Seat­tle woman af­ter she used tap wa­ter treated with a ba­sic over-the-counter wa­ter fil­ter to rinse her si­nuses with a Neti Pot. The or­gan­isms ap­par­ently were trans­ferred from the wa­ter through her si­nus cav­ity to her brain.

The woman’s case study was pub­lished orig­i­nally in the In­ter­na­tional Jour­nal of In­fec­tious Dis­eases in Septem­ber. The study de­scribes the pa­tient as hav­ing suf­fered from chronic si­nus in­fec­tion, with the si­nus rinse be­ing rec­om­mended for re­lief.

A month af­ter start­ing the si­nus rinse, she de­vel­oped a rash and what was first thought to be rosacea on her nose.

A year af­ter the rash ap­peared she suf­fered a seizure. Sur­geons dis­cov­ered the brain-wast­ing

dam­age, and the woman later died.

The re­port in the in­fec­tious dis­ease jour­nal called for doc­tors to be aware of this type of pro­gres­sion as a risk.

“Clin­i­cians should be aware that pa­tients who de­velop a nasal rash af­ter si­nus ir­ri­gation with non­ster­ile saline washes might be at high risk of amoeba skin in­fec­tion,” ac­cord­ing to the re­port.

Mak­ers of the Neti Pot si­nus rinse, avail­able over the counter at most drug­stores and gen­eral re­tail stores, of­fer de­tailed in­struc­tions on the proper use of the prod­uct within the pack­ag­ing and stress the need for ster­ile wa­ter and sup­plies.

There’s also a five page doc­u­ment on­line on how to use it. Among the tips:

Don’t share it with

A oth­ers.

“Al­ways use ster­il­ized A wa­ter, such as boiled or dis­tilled wa­ter, dur­ing nasal cleans­ing. If you boil your wa­ter, please make sure it is cooled to body tem­per­a­ture be­fore us­ing in your Neti Pot.”

Boil­ing/ster­il­iza­tion is A men­tioned more than once in the on­line guide, in bold type.

Dry the in­side of the

A prod­uct thor­oughly or let it air dry be­tween uses.

“Pe­ri­od­i­cally place


(the pot) in your dish­washer for a thor­ough san­i­tiz­ing.”

The Food and Drug Ad­min­is­tra­tion, in a page on its site cov­er­ing the safety of si­nus rinses, notes, “Tap wa­ter isn’t safe for use as a nasal rinse be­cause it’s not ad­e­quately fil­tered or treated. Some tap wa­ter con­tains low lev­els of or­gan­isms — such as bac­te­ria and pro­to­zoa, in­clud­ing amoe­bas — that may be safe to swal­low be­cause stom­ach acid kills them. But in your nose, these or­gan­isms can stay alive in nasal pas­sages and cause po­ten­tially se­ri­ous in­fec­tions. They can even be fa­tal.”

The Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion on its site lists rec­om­mended wa­ter fil­ters: “Use a fil­ter de­signed to re­move some wa­ter-lov­ing germs. The la­bel may read “NSF 53” or “NSF 58.” Fil­ter la­bels that read “ab­so­lute pore size of 1 mi­cron or smaller” are also ef­fec­tive.”

Or, buy wa­ter marked dis­tilled or ster­ile. Or boil wa­ter and let cool.

Bot­tom line, proper hy­giene and san­i­tiz­ing is crit­i­cal.

As Sam Perry, a wa­ter treat­ment engi­neer with the state Depart­ment of Health’s Of­fice of Drink­ing Wa­ter, told The News Tri­bune on Thurs­day, tap wa­ter is “safe for drink­ing, but for nasal ir­ri­gation, fol­low the man­u­fac­turer’s in­struc­tions.”

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