Sunday, August 29, 2010

I'm a little teapot, and it's disgusting

I sometimes wonder what my friends do with their time. What happens when they go home? What do they do when no one else is around? After a week of facebook posting about my cold, I have an answer:

My friends are all sitting at home irrigating their sinuses.

Maybe not all of my friends, but I've had a bad cold all week and the minute I posted that my nose was filled with snot and I couldn't breathe, people immediately started chiming in with, "You should try a Neti Pot!"

A what? What the hell is a Neti Pot?

"Oh, a Neti Pot! It'll cure what ails ya! You use it to rinse out your sinuses."

Wait, what?

People kept chiming in about the wonders of the Neti Pot, and I started to get kind of suspicious. Everyone was raving like it was a miracle cure, but when I looked it up online it just seemed to be a little teapot that you fill with saltwater and then somehow pour into your nose without drowning yourself. I like my friends and all, but this whole thing sounded less like medicine and more like folk remedy. In short, it sounded like the ear candle.

I learned about ear candles from a former coworker, Peggy, who was pretty much the worst mother in the world. Two examples, before you think I'm exaggerating:

1) Once Peggy's kid was in the office with us, and I was eating a pudding cup. She came over and held up her hands and Peggy was like, "She wants your pudding cup. Give her some," and I was like, "No. It's mine," and ate it in front of her. I threw the cup away and went on about my business, and about a minute later heard a rustling noise. I turned around to see Peggy's kid licking my pudding cup, which she had fished out of a very full garbage can.

"Peggy, Theo's eating out of the trash."

Peggy just shrugged.

"You should have given her that pudding cup like I said."

2) Once in the middle of December some coworkers and I were out at the Boston Market for lunch when we got a call from the office telling us that one of us had to come back and be in charge.

"It's Peggy's day. We're at lunch."

"She had to go get Theo at the daycare. The state shut it down."


Later in the day our coworker Pat, who ended the school year by having the cops called on her when she tried to stab her boyfriend, explained to us that Peggy had been sending her child to a daycare with no heat in the middle of winter in central New York because it was cheaper than any of the other daycares in the area. Peggy thought it would be fine because the kids kept their coats on all day, but the state of New York disagreed and condemned the building.

Like I said, worst mother ever, or at least the worst mother I ever worked with. Anyway, one day we were sitting around the office talking about what we were going to do that weekend, and Peggy volunteered that her friend was coming over so that they could candle Theo's ears. I had never heard of such a thing.


"An ear candle. It's like a spiral. You hold the baby still, and then you light the end of it, and when it burns down it pulls all the wax out of their ears."

"You're going to light something on fire and stick it in your kid's ear?"

"Well, yeah. Everyone I know back home does it."

The Neti Pot sounded exactly like this, but when I mentioned that it sounded like the kind of folk remedy that I'd have to buy from a conjure woman on the edge of the bayou, everyone assured me that sinus irrigation was totally normal and medically sound. All you had to do was flush a little salt water up there, and suddenly you would be breathing freely like... well, like somebody with really big lungs? And nostrils? Rather than wheezing and gasping for air like when Taylor Lautner tries to breathe through his squashed nostril-less alpaca nose?

After a week of loading up on drugs, hacking, coughing, and blowing my nose, I broke down and bought a Neti Pot:

neti pot

It's smaller than I thought it would be. Everybody kept saying it was a teapot, but it only holds a cup of water. It looks less like a medical device than it does a toy, but I tried reading the instructions with an open mind. Here, let me paraphrase a little:

1) Fill the Neti Pot with lukewarm water. Don't use hot water, or you will burn out your sinuses. Don't use cold water, either, because you'll get a brainfreeze. I wasn't sure how to decide if the water was too hot or too cold, because my nose might be more temperature sensitive than my fingers, but eventually I decided to stick my finger in the water and then stick my finger in my nose, and when it felt ok I decided the water temperature was fine.

Then I washed my finger, and continued.

2) Cut open one of the packets, dump it in the pot, and mix it until all the powder dissolves:

saline packet

That seemed easy enough.

3) While standing over the sink, put your chin down, tilt your head to the side, lean kind of forward, put the spout in the higher nostril, open your mouth and breathe normally, and raise the handle while doing so. I tried this a couple times, but still had no idea if I was doing it right or not, and wondered if there might be a photo or a diagram in the instructions that could help me. There certainly was:

instructional photo


What the hell, Neti Pot? The picture of the most important part of the whole operation, and it's almost smaller than a penny. Not only that, but the woman in the picture is doing it wrong! Her mouth is closed! How is this supposed to help me?

I decided to go ahead and try to do what I could almost see in the picture. I put my chin down, tilted my head to the side, leaned kind of forward, opened my mouth to breathe normally, and raised the handle:

using the neti pot (1)

If you click on that and view it at normal size, you will clearly see a stream of water exiting my lower nostril. Just in case, though, here's a slightly blurry closeup:

using the neti pot (2)

It is the strangest feeling ever. Even though you're breathing, you can feel the water moving inside your sinus cavity, and when it comes through your nose the feeling is warm and wet and violently organic. It was so jarring and disorienting that I thought I might vomit for a second, and there's a moment of panic when you feel water inside you and try to instinctively stand up, but trust me, you do not want to do that because the minute your head shifts the water starts running into your mouth instead of out of your nose and it's all warm and salty and then you really, really want to vomit.

4) Finish pouring, remove spout, and then blow your nose.

5) Repeat on other nostril.

So, did the Neti Pot cure all my ills?

No. I still have a cold.

On the other hand, my nose has been rather clear for the rest of the day.


Skald said...

I've always wanted to know how those things worked. Thanks for being a guinea pig :D

Sandy said...

Is tnere snot in the water coming out of your nose? I'm sorry, but it is still barfy.

JMBower said...

gargling with salt water will also aid this process, getting at the gunk in your upper throat.

And like I said, their forumla is over-hyped saline water. No miracle there, just good science:)

Anonymous said...

hey..that pot's too tiny.. you need a good 15oz. fill at a go for a sufficient flush of the sinuses.
A great information site with a good comparison of neti pots here at:

strong cookie. said...

I am totally freaked out that you took pictures.

that being said, I've done it once and it definitely helped clear my nose, but it made me feel like I was drowning the whole time.

Todd said...

Are you wearing Flash Underoos?