Attention all you mini watering can nasal swiffers, there are brain-eating amoebas on the loose! But don’t go smashing your neti pot in a stuffed-nose huff quite yet, there are a few simple steps you can take to prevent the nasty and potentially deadly critters. Unfortunately, a 51-year-old woman and 20-year-old man from Louisiana weren’t aware of the potential dangers and recently died from primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM) a rare infection from an amoeba called Naegleria fowleri, thought to have been caused by neti-ing.
According to The Department of Health and Hospitals in Louisiana, the amoeba causes the disease primary amebic meningoencephalitis, a brain infection that leads to the destruction of brain tissue.
Ick! And ugh. The same infection can occur after swimming or diving in warm freshwater lakes and rivers, or transmitted through inadequately chlorinated pool water or underheated (less than 116°F) tap water, Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals said. (other non neti-related deaths earlier this year.) Early symptoms include headache, fever, nausea, vomiting and neck stiffness. Later symptoms include confusion, lack of attention to people and surroundings, loss of balance, seizures and hallucinations.
If you have no rootin’ tootin’ idea what we’re talking about, neti what, neti who? A neti pot is literally a little pot you fill with a salt water solution and pour through your nasal passages to help clear them (or give yourself a nice salty throat drowning, which we’ve accomplished more times than not). See video below on how-to.
Sure brain-eating ameobas sound pretty awful, but so is thick snot and mucus. Flushing your sinuses using a neti is still highly recommended by many care providers. Heck, even Arm & Hammer has its own drugstore version. Luckily we’re informed of a few helpful steps to avoid such atrociousness:
Dr. Satish Govindaraj, assistant professor of otolaryngology at Mount Sinai Hospital advises:
Keep it clean: Make sure you wash the pot regularly with hot water and a little antibacterial soap. Clean it every day.
Don’t use tap water. Govindaraj recommends using distilled water or premixed packages of solution.
Replace your pot. Get a new one every few months. The hot water and washing can cause the plastic to weaken over time.
Also, maybe don’t go plastic. Try a ceramic pot, instead.
Now why can’t we ever get those brain-enhancing amoeba?
How to use a neti pot:
Is it possible to find out if this amoeba is present in all tap water, say in NYC? using distilled water seems fine, but an added hassle to warm it . . .
It helps to clean up my nostril. Not good I did not know before. I will miss the news
I think this may be more media hype. There are many reasons that this amoeba is found in waters in La. How can that finding be translated to areas outside of La.? These incidents both happened there. I chose to read this concern and continue my current practice. I live in California.
I no longer use a neti pot… I tried to neti my way out of a sinus infection and ended up irritating the nerve endings and got shingles on my face and in my eye. I started reading alot about the whole process, and now believe that the mucous serves a purpose and we shouldn’t be trying to rinse it away. Just my two cents.
get a Steri-pen. google it.
Using distilled water makes sense (and would seem to be enough to prevent the possibility of an infection), but the idea of using antibacterial soap in my (ceramic) neti pot does not. Antibac soaps are loaded with all kinds of chemicals. Do I really want to be rinsing my nasal passages with the remnants of those? I think not. I’ll stick to a couple drops of a less toxic everyday dish soap.
CDC reports and news coverage of this did mention that the people who contract this from tap water used untreated water systems. They likely live outside of cities and use wells, though the CDC states that all 2 home deaths from 2000-2010 just said the people used geothermal water heating. I’m guessing that a natural hot spring? Municipal water systems are heavily treated, and there isn’t much to worry about, but water testing in any area is pretty cheap if you have worries. (I use bottled water whenever I’m away from my fresh clean home well water – tested btw – just because I hate snorting chlorine).