I know more singers who suffer from allergy and sinus problems than any other group that I deal with. And these issues get particularly bad in the spring and fall. In the winter, the dry heat hits singers hard, leaving them struggling with lots of voice issues. The most common question that I’m asked by my voice students is what can they do to ease their sinus and allergy problems.
So here we are and fall is just around the corner, and with it, the start of school and the active performance season. There is one thing that I’ve always recommended to people to help with allergy symptoms, as well as sinus pain and pressure. That is a neti pot.
So, what is a neti pot? The neti pot was actually developed in ancient India as part of the Ayurvedic medical practices of the time. The neti pot looks somewhat like a mystical genie’s lamp. But it is used to irrigate the nasal passages and sinus cavities.
This works to flush away allergens that are in the nasal passages and sinuses. It also thins mucus and helps to get rid of it by flushing it away from the nasal passages.
Neti pots have been used as an important healing tool by ear, nose and throat surgeons, who have patients use them to clear away any crusting mucus in the nasal passages after surgery.
And more doctors are recommending them for patients who suffer with allergy symptoms.
I actually discovered the Neti pot about 8 years ago. At the time, I was struggling with extremely severe allergies and was taking a steroid based antihistamine every day. I hated the medication, because as a singer, it really affected my voice. I am very sensitive to some medications and the spray actually caused me to have more sinus pain and pressure. And regular antihistamines dried me out and made me so sleepy that it was hard for me to function. So I was thrilled to try the neti pot which is all natural.
To use a neti pot, fill it with 8 ounces of warm (not hot) water. Add 1/4 to 1/2 tsp of non-iodized salt (if you use the iodized salt, it will burn your nasal passages). Lean over the sink and tilt your head to the side at about a 45 degree angle.
Place the spout of the neti pot into the upper nostril and gently allow the saline solution to flow into the nose. It will pour out of the lower nostril. If a little drips into the throat, that’s okay…just spit it out! After irrigating one side, gently blow your nose to get rid of any extra fluid. Make sure that you do both nostrils, so that you fully irrigate your nasal passages.
I did have someone ask me if it hurt to use the neti pot. The answer is a resounding NO! When you clear your nasal passages this way, it feels strange at first. The only time I ever had any discomfort was when I tried to use iodized salt. It burned, but was just mildly uncomfortable. Do make sure that you don’t use water that is too hot or cold.
I use my neti pot regularly and since starting to use it, I am completely off of any medication. Now I only use the neti pot to deal with allergy symptoms. Typically, using it once a day is fine, but for those with serious allergy issues, you may need to use it twice a day for the best results.
There is a second step to nasal irrigation that most that recommend the neti pot don’t talk about. But it is of particular importance for singers and actors who use their voice regularly and need to keep their sinuses and vocal cords well lubricated. Doing the neti pot alone with actually cause more sinus and nasal dryness. That is because salt is a drying compound. So in order to keep your sinuses well lubricated, it is important to use nasal oil. This is known in the Ayuvedic tradition as nasya. The specially formulated nasya herbal oil effectively lubricates the sinuses and prevents your body from creating excess mucous, which it does when the sinuses become too dry. I’ve heard some that say that you can use plain sesame oil if you can’t get the nasya oil. If you choose to do that, choose an organic sesame oil that is cold pressed. I’ve included a video below about doing both neti and nasya from Dr. John Douillard, who is an expert in Ayurvedic medicine. He explains the process very well.
You can order a neti pot and nasya oil online. Neti pots are also available now in most drug stores and large chain stores.