Using Neti pots for nasal washes is a wonderful home treatment for seasonal allergies and colds, however nasal washes have been in the news recently in two cases of transmitting a “brain eating” amoeba, Naegleria fowleri, a very rare infection. The two new cases are the first reported from tap water.
Louisiana’s Department of Health and Hospitals recently issued a warning to residents: Don’t use tap water to rinse your nasal passages. “Tap water is safe for drinking, but not for irrigating your nose,” Raoult Ratard, from Louisiana’s state epidemiologist said in a statement.
A 51 year old woman in Louisiana died after being infected with Naegleria fowleri, a parasite which enters the body through the nose; after entering the body can cause meningitis. The amoeba was likely in the tap water the woman used to rinse her nasal passages.
Naegleria fowleri lives in freshwater in warm climates (like the southern U.S.)- the amoeba enters the nasal passage during swimming in lakes, ponds or during facial immersion and enters the brain through the olfactory nerve (connecting the nose to the brain), into the fluid behind the brain causing meningitis.
Use only distilled, sterile water or previously boiled water, and to rinse the neti pot (or irrigation device) before use and allow it to air dry between uses.