Should You Still Rinse Your Sinuses During The COVID-19 Outbreak?

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Sinus rinsing, using a saline solution of salt and water, can be beneficial for those with allergies and sinus and nasal diseases. It moisturizes the nose while flushing out allergens and mucus, says John Craig, M.D., an ear, nose and throat (ENT) surgeon who specializes in nasal and sinus care (rhinology) at Henry Ford Health System.

For those who have had sinus surgery, it helps to clean out postoperative debris. For patients with inflammatory conditions like sinusitis or rhinitis, steroids or antibiotics can also be mixed into the rinsing solutions.

But with the rise of the novel coronavirus, sinus rinsing might come with an increased risk: sinus irrigation devices like neti pots and squeeze bottles have surfaces that can harbor active COVID-19 droplets for hours, potentially increasing the spread of the virus. While studies have not proven this risk, it would be wise to prepare for such risks, and perform sinus rinses in the safest manner possible.

Because of this potential risk, some people might want to stop rinsing for the time being. “If you’re someone who rinses your sinuses just because it feels good, consider holding off for now because we do not know the true risk of sinus rinsing spreading this virus,” says Dr. Craig. “But if you have sinusitis or other sinus disease, and you will feel absolutely miserable without rinsing, it is possible to disinfect your sinus-rinse device to minimize the risk of contamination.”

During normal times (i.e. when there’s no pandemic), Dr. Craig says the rules are a bit laxer on cleaning sinus irrigation devices — perhaps cleaning them every week with soap and water — but now, cleaning after every use is recommended. Here, he shares how to sterilize your device.

  1. First, use boiled water (cooled down) or distilled water (microwaved for two minutes, then cooled) to make your own saline solution.
  2. Use as instructed for irrigating through your nose.
  3. Clean the inside and outside of your irrigation device with soap and tap water. This step is important to remove particle matter like mucus and other grime. It will allow the subsequent disinfectant to work more optimally.
  4. Disinfect the device in one of two ways (both of which destroy bacteria and viruses including COVID-19):
  5. Boil all components of the device in water for five minutes
  6. Rinse the inside of the device and clean the rest of it with 70% isopropyl alcohol. Leave open to air dry.

For more details, check out Dr. Craig's YouTube video on this topic.


Learn more about sinus care at Henry Ford Health System. For up-to-date information about Henry Ford’s response to the coronavirus, visit henryford.com/coronavirus.

Dr. John Craig is the Henry Ford Division Chief of Rhinology in the Department of Otolaryngology, and is a co-director of the Pituitary, Skull Base, and Endoscopy Center in conjunction with the Department of Neurosurgery. He sees patients at the Henry Ford Medical Center – Fairlane in Dearborn and at Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital.

Categories: FeelWell