From the Headlines: Is Your Neti Pot Dangerous?

Yeesh. Two things we love—neti pots and organic food—took a bit of beating in the press last week. Did you guys see? Did someone smug forward you an article about how organic food isn’t healthier after all, or sound alarm bells about why you can’t pour tap water through your nose? (You really can’t.)

Let’s do a quick survey of the facts, starting with neti pots today and organic food tomorrow. The New York Times and others have reported that two cases of a deadly brain infection have been linked to neti pots. From the piece:

The Food and Drug Administration last month reported on two cases in Louisiana in which patients contracted infections after using neti pots filled with tap water. The culprit was an amoeba called Naegleria fowleri, which is commonly found in lakes, rivers and hot springs.

But before you swear off your neti for good, known to help irrigate the nasal passage and proven to reduce pesky allergy symptoms, or freak out about your water, here are two important facts: 1) the amoeba in question is killed by stomach acid, so this isn’t a drinking concern; 2) it’s also killed by boiling, which is what you should do if you use tap water in your neti, as opposed to filtered or distilled.

This year, I had allergies for the first time in earnest. And when I reached out for natural remedy suggestions, the neti came up over and over again. It’s a wonderful device, and it can help reduce symptoms by clearing out pollen and other allergens.

But this is a harsh, and very serious, reminder that it’s not OK to just pour in some warm tap water to rinse with, even if it’s easier than boiling.

It’s also super important to keep your pot clean, and as the people from the Mayo Clinic said in the piece: no sharing.

I know a lot of you are neti users. What kind of water do you rinse with, and did this report scare you off your pot?

26 Responses to “From the Headlines: Is Your Neti Pot Dangerous?”
  1. Paige says:

    What if your tap water isnt well water? Mine comes from municipal system and I feel safe using it because it isnt directly from a well or stream. Thoughts?

  2. Alexandra says:

    Hmm, I’m no water expert—but maybe some of our readers are. :)

  3. Megan says:

    I now use boiled water, after googleing the proper neti pot water-salt ratio and discovering those news stories from Lousiana. Before that, I just used tap water. Yikes! I find that I always seem to have left over pre-boiled water in my kettle, so I just use that, and heat it up to make it warm by turning on the kettle on for just a few seconds.

  4. Rebecca W says:

    I don’t know what all municipal systems can use to ensure the water people are drinking is clean, but here we have fluoride and chlorine in our water….and I wouldn’t want to send that up my nasal cavity! It’s not a big deal, buy a Brita jug or a bottle of distilled water. Better safe than sorry…

  5. Lesley says:

    Boiling or filtering is still a good idea to remove chlorine from the water. That would be pretty drying for your sinuses. Also, that particular amoeba can only live in hot temperatures so it isn’t an issue for everyone. But why not make it a habit to use filtered water or boil some? I also add a bit of sea salt and baking soda to my water before I neti.

  6. comagirl says:

    I have not used a Neti pot, but have considered it for some time. This article would not influence me either way. As in all things related to healing thyself, one must be sanitary.

  7. Moksha says:

    Does the use of salt not influence the cleanliness of the water?

  8. Robin says:

    I use NeilMed sinus rinse, which is the same principle as a neti pot (it just looked easier to me, so that is what I went with). We have an electric tea kettle at our house that we use daily, so I just boil the water and when it’s cool, use that in my bottle. The NM package comes with little packets of premixed sodium chloride and sodium bicarbonate, which is handy. You just dump them in and let it dissolve. Obviously you could do that yourself, but I find it a good solution. Eating local honey and using a sinus rinse kept my allergies at bay for the last two years, until we recently moved cities. I seriously only had to take OTC allergy meds once or twice in all that time, and I had really bad seasonal allergies. I’m not sure if it is the move, or being 34 weeks pregnant, or both, but I have the worst congestion right now. Constant drip, gagging, coughing. ugh! I’ve started eating the honey from the city where I now live and got back into a rinse routine, so I”m hoping it helps.

  9. Lisa says:

    Many municipal water systems filter at a level that will remove this amoeba, however some municipalities may not. Other treatment processes might affect it, such as chlorination, ozonation, UV, etc. However, as I’m not that familiar with this particular amoeba I can’t say for sure.
    The risky thing about amoebae is that you only need 1 organism to get sick. With bacteria (ie E.coli) you need a certain load, usually in the millions.

  10. Rebecca says:

    I’m not a fan of the Neti, but the time I did try it I think I used filtered water, I definitely didn’t boil it. If there are actually only two cases of infection, out of who knows how many Neti users, it’s not something that would influence my use. I agree with comagirl – you have to use common sense and keep things clean.

  11. stephani says:

    If you are using a neti pot, ensuring that the pot and your water is clean is the best advice out there. Water from the southern US states is more likely to be contaminated with the amoeba, but it can also live in areas with geothermal pools like here in California or in vast lake areas like Minnesota. While my well water doesn’t reach the temperatures to allow the amoeba to survive, it is wise to use water that has been filtered or previously boiled. My bottled water cooler comes with a hot water spigot and I fill half or so up with the hot water and then cool it down with cold water. Buying a bottle of distilled water costs pennies per nasal rinse and helps ease the mind. They have reported that the salt does not kill the amoeba after 4 hours of soaking. Always use the correct proportions of salt in your neti pot, rinsing with just water is bad and unproductive as your mucous will not be thinned from the saline solution. Use 1/2 per 10 oz of water and you can even use more to calm inflammation. Using a quality mineral salt is important too- most salts have added anti caking agents (which is a conversation we should really discuss as we all consume salt in several manners… but I digress) Check out our website to help inform yourself While I agree that we should all be using good clean water, I caution people from being overzealous and falling into the hysteria of the issue.

  12. Lesley says:

    @Moksha – Adding salt to the neti water actually helps draw things out of your sinuses. Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) acts as a buffer in case the salt causes any stinging.

  13. Colleen M says:

    I love my Neti! I’ve used different water sources (tap, distilled, and filtered). Also, I’ve used my own additives of (salt, salt + baking soda, and special neti salt). Overall, the tap water was the worst (I was too lazy to go to the store, so I thought why not?). It made my nose burn!! I’ve been a competitive swimmer for years, and nothing like this happened at the pool. I strictly use distilled or filtered water with salt added. The baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) can be useful to help keep your cilia clean and healthy. Just make sure there aren’t any anti-caking agents in either the salt or the bs, you don’t want that up your nose!!

  14. Liz says:

    I read about this several months ago, and the solution is a two-parter, and it’s simple. First, ALWAYS boil the water. Even if it’s filtered water. Boil it too, and then give it time to cool down enough to use. I like to put some water on to boil first thing, then make my coffee, then once it’s boiling, take it off the heat, and go about my morning routine. Once it’s cool enough I pour it into the neti pot and use.

    As the NMDL ladies said, this is not an issue for DRINKING water, it’s an issue for water that contacts your nasal passages. That’s a much more sensitive barrier, with no acids to break harmful things down. the trouble with the brain-eating amoebas is the blood-brain barrier, which can be crossed in your nasal passages.

    The second part is: let your neti pot AIR DRY COMPLETELY before using it again. The easiest fix is to wash it immediately after use and allow it to air dry for 24 hours. Why? Because the amoeba can only survive in a wet environment. They die when the neti pot dries out, but this is why it’s critical you let it dry COMPLETELY.

  15. JeanineD says:

    Oops, I’ve been using tap water for the longest time, though I switched recently since I noticed it dries out my mucosa. I’ve been using filtered water, but I think I will go the extra step and boil it from now on. I use it for sinus congestion and allergies and it has been a lifesaver!

  16. Caroline says:

    Well, I’ve never used such a netty pot although my vasomotor rhinitis could have benefited a bit froom it… Or next time I’ll have a cold… But what really alleviates this rhinitis (that I’ve had for about ten years at least) is going seriously vegan (gluten and casein free). Sorry if this sounds boring but my rhinitis was getting so boring too! I even went to see an alergist, cause it ended up looking like allergies… But no, no allergies. Just some hypersensitivity that seem to disappear when I avoid dairies… *sigh* I was so fond of cheese!

  17. QuiteLight says:

    Whoops, long-time neti user & confirmed tap water user. I am a morning & evening zombie (sleeping issues), and if it’s too hard, I will put it off.

    However, this is sobering. I will reconsider. I have a Brita, & tea kettle & brain, hopefully I can work something out.

  18. Nikki says:

    I’ve been using a neti pot once a day, every day, for two years, and though this news is disturbing I won’t be quitting. I boil filtered tap water and let it cool before putting it in my pot with salt. Sometimes I cheat and use non-boiled, filtered tap water to achieve the right temperature.

    The neti pot has been my saving grace against seasonal allergies, chronic sinus infections, and dry nasal passages (from winter conditions and airplane travel). When traveling abroad I locate a kettle and boil bottled water. I used Xlear Nasal Spray during my last long flight, and it kept my nasal passages moisturized and happy when the neti pot wasn’t an option. From what I can tell it’s an all-natural product.

  19. Melissa P. says:

    Hello! I am going t be using a Neti Pot for the first time in an attempt to wean myself from my Afrin addiction. You see, I use a nasal CPAP and having clear nasal passages is essential for it to work properly, thus my Afrin addiction.

    I bought this neti pot brand new from Sprouts (organic store) here in Littleton, Colorado and it is still package. Do I need to clean ti before I use it? How should I clean it? Handwash with dishsoap? Dishwasher? Rinse with boiled water?

    Also, is it acceptable to use tap water that has been brough to a boil in an electrical tea kettle? It is brought to a boil then it turns off, is that sufficient to kill the bad stuff in the tap water?

    Thank you so much!


  20. Amber G. says:

    Melissa, I always wash new things before I use them, clothes included. Yes, electric tea kettle is fine, the boiling point is what’s important. I’m personally wondering about why not iodized salt?

  21. Patti says:

    the comment left by Quiteight really made me laugh….thank you. .I needed that. I can’t remember the last time I used my tea kettle or even where it is and I’m working with only 1/2 a brain so I’m really in trouble :-)

  22. katie says:

    I just used my neti pot yesterday for the first time ever. I’m very aware of all the wonderful stories of this…but i just had a friend tell me how dangerous they are. I have 3 young kids and am very congested sick, i just grabbed myneti pop, skimmed directions and used tap water from my well. Now I’m petrified I’m going to get sick! Has anyone ever used tap water and not gotten sick????

  23. heyyyyyyyyy says:

    katie I hope you are all well… Please research about how to safely use a Neti Pot. If you use it in the wrong way it could be dangerous, peace!

  24. Z Eaglestone says:

    I have been using tap water in my neti pot and am now petrified that I have caused myself damage. I can’t believe I didn’t use cooled boiled water. I am just hoping illness is really rare and if I use it anymore I will use cooled boiled water.

  25. Robe says:

    The virus lives in geothermal pools yet “boiling” will help?
    guess it only lives on the “outskirts” of this ther,al community?

  26. Judy says:

    I use the Neil Med. What’s the best way to clean it and the connector in the bottle? Couldn’t live without it!


Leave A Comment