The One Part of Your Body You're Not Washing But Should
Science has clearly established that wearing a mask, social distancing, and diligent hand hygiene are all effective measures when it comes to preventing the spread of viruses and colds. However, according to some medical experts, there's another simple self-protection ritual you're not doing.
Dr. Lon Jones, DO, a Texas-based family medicine physician, claims that washing your nose may effectively keep you happy and healthy, if done in tandem with the preventative methods mentioned above, and he's not the only one.
Why Doctors Want You to Wash Your Nose
In his new book, Dr. Jones, who pioneered the nasal uses of the healthy sugar xylitol, offers scientific support in the form of scientific studies and his own clinical experiences to support the habit as an effective prevention method for viruses. He explains that by supporting our nasal defenses, viruses can be eliminated when its viral load is lightest and the virus is still located in the upper respiratory tissues before it has spread to the lungs.
"North Carolina medical researchers show that the virus behind the current pandemic picks on the nose first and argues for treating it there," he explains to Eat This, Not That! Health.
It's essential to note that while scientific research supports this method for other irritants, R. Peter Manes, MD, FACS, a Yale Medicine rhinologist and skull-base surgeon, points out that there have been no solid scientific studies supporting it as a coronavirus prevention method.
"Nasal saline irrigations are often utilized to flush out allergens and mucus. They are associated with symptomatic improvement in patients with nasal and sinus disorders. However, there is no definitive evidence that nasal irrigations will protect the user against COVID-19 infection," he tells ETNT Health.
However, there is a sound medical argument for nasal irrigation for certain people. According to one study done by UW Madison, there are other benefits to nasal rinsing—especially for those suffering from chronic sinus issues. It can result in a decrease in symptoms such as congestion and runny nose, an increased quality of life, and a reduced use of nasal sprays and antibiotics.
"Numerous clinical trials have been conducted, and most agree that nasal irrigation is safe and well tolerated. At worst, they note that the procedure can be cumbersome, requiring more effort than other options, such as taking medications," reports Healthline. "At best, nasal irrigation provides significant improvements in a wide range of allergy symptoms. Researchers at the University of California, San Diego, studied more than 200 patients who used the procedure. Subjects experienced 'statistically significant improvements' in 23 of 30 symptoms, plus improvements in subjective quality-of-life ratings."
Dr. Jones explains that upper respiratory infections in the ears (children) and sinuses (adults) as well as allergies and asthma have been increasing since the mid 1960s. This can be attributed to two factors that impact the availability of water to the nose. The first is that central heating and air conditioning became standard and both reduced the water in the air available to our noses. The second is that cold pills were made available over the counter which close the taps for the water to come from the body and block the histamine that triggers the back-up washing, "that is a defense we all have that tries to wash pollutants from the nose."
How to Wash Your Nose
So just how do you wash your nose? "Neti pots are the oldest" form, says Dr. Jones, although he recommends a xylitol spray, finding it less damaging. "Neti pots look like little teapots with long spouts and are used to rinse the nasal passages with a saline (salt-based) solution," reports the CDC. "They have become popular as a treatment for congested sinuses, colds, and allergies, and for moistening nasal passages exposed to dry indoor air."
The FDA recommends you use the following types of water:
- "Distilled or sterile water, which you can buy in stores. The label will state 'distilled' or 'sterile.'
- Boiled and cooled tap water — boiled for 3 to 5 minutes, then cooled until it is lukewarm. Previously boiled water can be stored in a clean, closed container for use within 24 hours.
- Water passed through a filter designed to trap potentially infectious organisms."
The FDA also offers instructions for use.
"Information included with the irrigation device might give more specific instructions about its use and care," they say. "These devices all work in basically the same way:
- 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."
How to Avoid COVID-19
Don't count on nasal irrigation to protect you from COVID-19. Wear your face mask, get tested if you think you have coronavirus, avoid crowds (and bars, and house parties), practice social distancing, only run essential errands, wash your hands regularly, disinfect frequently touched surfaces, and to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 37 Places You're Most Likely to Catch Coronavirus.