Microscopic hairs in the mucous membranes along the nasal passages, called cilia, act as the body's natural defense against germs and pollutants. When the effectiveness of the cilia breaks down, the body becomes prone to upper respiratory and sinus infections and allergic reactions. A sinus irrigator is a tool that promotes healthy function of the cilia, thus reducing the frequency of infection or allergic symptoms.
A sinus irrigator forces fluid, usually a saline solution, into the nasal passages. By using a sinus irrigator, germs are flushed away without the use of drugs. While antibiotic prescriptions only treat the symptoms of disease, a sinus irrigator aids the body for the long-term by fending off infection in a more natural way.
Most sinus irrigators are designed to be used with a pressurized dental hygiene system. The tip is attached to the end of the wand of the dental irrigation system; next, salt and warm water, or a premixed saline solution is added to the reservoir. When you are ready to use the device, you stand over the bathroom sink and insert the tip into one nostril. Once the system is turned on, the fluid will be forced up the nostril, into one nasal chamber and out the other. After a few minutes, you can switch sides. The process should be continued until the saline solution runs clear. A sinus irrigator is particularly effective when mucous is especially thick, such as when you have a cold.
A sinus irrigator is more effective than simply using saline drops or nasal sprays because it is the actual pulsing motion that brings the cilia back to normal function, and nasal sprays can contain chemicals that can irritate the lining of the nose. Daily use of a sinus irrigator is called for while you have a cold or infection, but you should refrain from overusing one. If you are feeling ill and continue to experience thick mucous and have other symptoms of a serious infection, such as fever, consult your physician.