FDA: Improper use of Neti Pots can cause brain-eating amoebas

Flu season is still here, and chances are you or someone you know might be dealing with a stuffy nose. For many people, Neti Pots are a go-to item for much needed sinus relief. The nasal irrigation systems use saline -- or saltwater -- to treat congested sinuses caused by colds and allergies.

However, pouring water up your nose isn't always safe, and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it can even be deadly in some rare cases.

That potential risk caused the FDA to update their guidelines for using Neti Pots.

Very rarely, water from the sink can contain Naegleria fowleri, a type of brain-eating amoebas. Stomach acid usually kills any bacteria or organisms you drink, but your nasal passages don't offer the same protection. "Once the ameba enters the nose, it travels to the brain where it causes PAM, which is usually fatal," the CDC explained.

Here are the updated guidelines to lower your risk of becoming infected, according to the CDC:

Boil: Use water that has been previously boiled for one minute and left to cool. At elevations above 6,500 feet, boil for three minutes.

Filter: 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.

Buy: Use water with a label specifying that it contains distilled or sterile water.

Disinfect: Learn how to disinfect your water to ensure it is safe from Naegleria. Chlorine bleach used at the right level and time will work as a disinfectant against this germ.

There have only been two cases linked to nasal rinse devices, however the FDA updated its guidelines to protect people against brain-eating amoebas and other types of infections.

The FDA also shared tips on how to safely use nasal irrigation systems:
  • Leaning over a sink, tilt your head sideways with your forehead and chin roughly level to avoid liquid flowing into your mouth.
  • Breathing through your open mouth, insert the spout of the saline-filled container into your upper nostril so that the liquid drains through the lower nostril.
  • Clear your nostrils. Then repeat the procedure, tilting your head sideways, on the other side.

Sinus rinsing can remove dust, pollen and other debris, as well as help to loosen thick mucus. It can also help relieve nasal symptoms of sinus infections, allergies, colds and flu. Plain water can irritate your nose. The saline allows the water to pass through delicate nasal membranes with little or no burning or irritation.

If your immune system isn't working properly, consult your health care provider before using any nasal irrigation systems.

To use and care for your device:
  • Wash and dry your hands.
  • Check that the device is clean and completely dry.
  • Prepare the saline rinse, either with the prepared mixture supplied with the device, or one you make yourself.
  • Follow the manufacturer's directions for use.
  • Wash the device, and dry the inside with a paper towel or let it air dry between uses.
Copyright © 2019 KTRK-TV. All Rights Reserved.