One of the sprogs gave me a cold. There is nothing like being knocked on your butt by a cold to take all of the fun out of a weekend spent not-grading research projects.
Also, it seems to have filled my head with phlegm that then got ... phlegmatic. Not quite congealed, but on its way in that direction. Desperate for relief, this led me to try something new.
OK, a neti pot is actually a very old treatment, but its use is new to me. Also, it's apparently mainstream enough that you can find it in Walgreen's, and that the package insert claims that "it has been clinically proven to provide effective relief for uncomfortable sinus and nasal conditions and promote better breathing".
So, the idea is that you a warm saline solution plus gravity to wash your sinus passages. The neti pot is like a little watering can that lets you introduce that warm saline into one nostril. It flows from the nostril into a sinus passage and out the other nostril, at least provided that your head is titled to offer that other nostril as the gravitationally preferred exit route. (Keeping your mouth open and breathing through it as you do it helps prevent the saline from draining into your mouth.)
Then, you repeat the process introducing saline into the other nostril. ("What, you can't do both sides at once?" asked my better half. I chose to interpret that as a question asked from ignorance rather than a desire to make sport of a sick person.)
Watching this video demonstration made the process somewhat more intuitive to perform myself:
Let the record reflect that I skipped the calisthenics demonstrated near the end.
Some observations from a neti n00b:
First off, cramming the spout into my nostril was kind of uncomfortable. I have never thought of my nose as petite, and I'm guessing that there are plenty of folks out there with smaller nostrils than mine (especially as the packaging indicates that this product can be used by adults and children 4 years and over). I'm wondering if maybe there's an adapter for smaller nostrils? I'm guessing, though, that it's supposed to be a snug fit to help force the saline into the nasal passage rather than letting it dribble out around the entry nostril.
I suppose it's also possible that my nostrils are kind of swollen on account of the cold. If I were a regular neti user while healthy, maybe there would be less difficulty with insertion.
OK, next, enjoying the sensation of the water flowing through? I'm not sure "enjoying" would make the top ten list of best words to describe the sensation. It did give me a little bit of a flashback to wave-jumping in my youth (or more precisely, to the sensation I'd get in my head when I'd been knocked underwater by a hard wave and was doing my level best not to end up with a lung full of saltwater). It wasn't painful, but it wasn't really relaxing, either. Maybe with practice it will be more compatible with being relaxed.
In the immediate aftermath of the nasal irrigation, it was easier to breathe freely. My nose was less stuffed up, albeit more runny. However, this didn't last very long. I suspect part of it has to do with the miscibility of mucus (of varying thickness) and saline -- some snot flowed out with the salt water, but not all of it. As well, my head is currently configured as a factory to make more mucus, so even if irrigation shipped all of what was in my nasal passages out, those nasal passages would be restocked in no time.
The neti pot may deliver temporary relief, but it is not magic. (That the package indicates you can use it as frequently as every 2 hours suggests as much.)
However, I'm hopeful that, as I'm in the stage of this cold where the mucus gets thick and sluggish, the neti pot will help me move things through effectively enough that the yummy thick mucus in my sinuses will not become the site of a secondary infection. Sinus infections can make grading (indeed, even drawing breath) a lot less fun.
Finally, here is the video demonstration I almost watched before my first use of the neti pot:
Please don't try this at home.