Health & wellness

Daily Dose

2 rare neti pot deaths prompts warning

People who have chronic sinus infections or nasal allergies are often told by their doctors to use a neti pot to rinse their clogged nasal passages, but they also need to take a few precautions to lower their risk of getting other infections, the US Food and Drug Administration recommended in a recent guide for consumers.

Improper use of neti pots was linked to two deaths last year in Louisiana from a rare brain infection, according to the FDA, because of tap water contaminated with an amoeba organism that infected the brain.

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While the FDA called neti pots “generally safe and useful,” those who use them should only pour in distilled water or tap water that’s been filtered.

Dr. Stacey Gray, co-director of the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary sinus center, said this is smart advice, though municipal water supplies are routinely tested for bacteria and other organisms. (The amoeba linked to the Louisiana deaths isn’t a threat in Massachusetts tap water.)

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Nasal rinsing can remove dirt, dust, pollen and other debris. It can also help to loosen thick mucus that afflicts many with chronic congestion.

The irrigation system using a pot or tube sold over-the-counter in most drugstores is fairly risk-free as long as the water contains no contaminants. A bigger concern than pathogens in tap water, Gray added, is mold or bacteria growing in pots or tubes that haven’t been properly cleaned. DK

Deborah Kotz can be reached at dkotz@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @debkotz2.
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