Is a Neti Pot Safe?

Important Caution. Please Read This!

Use the information on this site AT YOUR OWN RISK, and read the disclaimer.

Subscribe for Free!

Never miss a post or update.

BONUS: Right now, you'll also receive "The Survival Doctor's Ultimate Emergency Medical Supplies" report—FREE!

We respect your email privacy.

 Subscribe in a reader

Find The Survival Doctor on FacebookFollow The Survival Doctor on TwitterFollow Me on PinterestFollow me on GoodreadsSubscribe to me on YouTube

This survival-medicine website provides general information, not individual advice. Most scenarios assume the victim cannot get expert medical help. Please see the disclaimer.

How to Avoid a Brain-Eating Amoeba. (Is Nasal Irrigation Safe?)

Microscopic image of brain tissue infected by the amoeba Naegleria fowleri. Places it’s found include fresh water, heated swimming pools, and hydrotherapy pools, according to the CDC.

by James Hubbard, MD, MPH

I’ve long recommended nasal irrigation as prevention and treatment for colds and allergies.

Then came the report of brain-eating amoeba.

Two people died from the amoeba Naegleria fowleri after irrigating with contaminated tap water using a simple irrigation device called a neti pot. They developed meningitis with severe headaches and neck pain. There’s really no effective treatment.

Now everyone wonders, is irrigating with a neti pot safe? Is any sinus irrigation considered safe?

The answer is a resounding yes, if you follow the FDA suggestions by:

  1. Using distilled or sterile water you buy at a store.
  2. Boiling tap water for three to five minutes.
  3. Using a water filter with a pore size of 1 micron or smaller.

Before I read the FDA recommendations, I thought salt would kill the ameboae, but the FDA doesn’t mention it, so I no longer deem that a safe way to go. I’d still use a half-teaspoon of salt per cup of warm water but just because it seems to work better and not irritate the nasal lining as much. Just don’t depend on it alone to kill the amoebae.

Books adAnd, of course, whether you use a neti pot, bulb syringe, cup, glass, or commercial irrigator, rinse and clean it after every use, and let it air dry.

Take The Survival Doctor with you! Click here for interactive guidebooks.

Biology 101

In case you’ve forgotten your high school science, an amoeba (alternate spelling is ameba) is this microscopic, one-cell organism that lives in water. Its way of travel has always reminded me of the colored oil that moves around in those lava lamps.

One other thing.

The Naegleria fowleri amoeba is nothing new. It lives in warm, fresh water such as lakes, rivers, and hot springs. And just like with the neti pot, people have died from getting contaminated water up their nose. Of course, like the nasal-irrigation route, getting it this way is very rare, but deadly.

To avoid it, don’t go underwater if you can help it, and hold your nose if you do. Also, don’t sit around in the shallow water and stir up sediment, where it likes to reside.

What about you? Have you stopped sinus irrigation or changed your way of doing it since this report came out?

P.S. Quick update: You can now take my survival-medicine supplies list to the store with you. Just click the PDF link on this page for a simple, organized checklist.

(Subscribe to updates below.)

  • Subscribe for Free!
    Never miss a post or update.

    BONUS: You'll also receive "The Survival Doctor's Ultimate Emergency Medical Supplies" report—FREE!

    We respect your email privacy.

Photo by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

  • Mark Vyan

    Hi Doc, is it possible for bottled water to have dangerous amoebas? I don’t think so due to the purification process, but I was just wondering.

    • James Hubbard, MD, MPH

      Mark, sure. Like anything sold commercial, it could be inadvertently contaminated. Of course that is usually rare and, if a few get sick, that batch would be discontinued.

  • Eliot W. Collins

    There are millions of neti pots being used around the world every day. This has been going on for ages. If using unsterilized water in a neti pot were dangerous, then there would be hundreds or thousands of deaths a year, not just two in Louisiana.

  • Grace

    You are wonderful. Thank you for taking care of me through sound and informative articles. Blessings

    • James Hubbard, MD, MPH

      Thanks, Grace. That’s so nice of you.

  • Pingback: Brain-eating Amoeba Temperature Of Boiling Water | Brain Supplements()

  • John

    Dr. Hubbard, any idea as to whether the amoeba can survive in a nasal spray medication that is refrigerated? Would the cold temperature or Hydrochloride kill it or prevent infection? I’m hoping there’s not much to worry about here.. :-)

    Thanks very much!

    • James Hubbard, MD, MPH

      John, the only completely safe way is to boil the water, use bought bottled water, or buy commercial nose spray or irritant. Any of those should not have a risk of an amoeba whether you refrigerate it or not.

  • Amoeba Avoider

    I use a NielMed Nasal irrigation bottle. I use treated (and fairly well regulated) tap water and am always sure to boil the water for at least five minuets before cooling it. In addition to the salt (from NielMed) my doctor prescribed some soluble antibiotics for the nasal irrigation (unrelated to this), so that would also harm any amoebae that may inhabit the water.

    • Amoeba Avoider

      I also wash and microwave the bottle on the per use basis (I use it three times a day) as per the instructions.

      • James Hubbard, MD, MPH

        Thanks for sharing.

  • Carrie

    I went swimming today in a pool which I later learned had not been chlorinated properly. I got water up my nose 3 different times, my husband got water up his as well. I am very anxious about this as we live in the Southern states. Someone please tell me if I have cause to worry about this or not. I am very upset and worried about this.

    • James Hubbard, MD, MPH

      1. It’s extremely rare–in the U.S. a handful of cases per year compared to millions who get water up their nose. 2. There’s nothing to do unless you have symptoms. Then, all you can do is check with a doctor. 3. Here’s a good link to more info

  • Pingback: How to Use a Neti Pot Safely()

  • Brenna H.

    But then again our water is treated…does that help MD?

  • Brenna H.

    Docter.. MD, please help me..