Two neti pot users in Louisiana died from a brain-eating amoeba in the water. Does this mean you should give up your neti pot?
The amoeba, Naegleria fowleri, is sometimes present in freshwater lakes and ponds. It can also contaminate tap water and is not lethal if you drink it. It can infect the brain via the nasal passages, however, if it gets into the sinuses. Neti pot use isn’t the only way that people get infected with Naegleria fowleri. If you’re swimming in a contaminated lake or pond, it’s possible to get infected as well if water gets into your nose.
How to Neti Safely
When I talked about this story with my friend Tracy, she wondered why the headline was “Two Die from Using Neti Pot” and not “Louisiana Tap Water Contaminated with Brain-Eating Bacteria.” I think that’s a really great point, and I’m not going to let this stop me from using my neti pot. What I am going to do is take some extra safety precautions, since it seems that tap water may not always be safe for nasal irrigation. Here are some options to neti safely:
- Distilled water. I’m not crazy about bottled water, but in this case it might be a better option. Some grocery stores sell distilled water that you can put into your own, reusable container. If that’s an option, it’s definitely more eco-friendly than buying bottled water.
- Boil your water. This is my preferred method for sure. Boil your water, then wait for it to return to a safe temperature. Just to be clear, you do not want to put boiling water into your neti pot. Test a few drops on the inside of your forearm to make sure it’s reached a lukewarm temperature before you use it. You can also boil a few cups of water and store it in a Mason jar in the refrigerator, so you don’t have to boil it every time.
It’s always scary to learn that a healthy habit has caused harm, but I think it’s important to keep these incidents in perspective. Thousands of people use neti pots every day, and there have only been two deaths reported this year from Naegleria fowleri in neti pot water. If you take some simple safety precautions, there’s no need to panic or to give up your neti pot.
Image Credit: Neti Pot photo via Thinkstock.