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How to Use a Neti Pot and Salt to Stop a Runny Nose Without Drugs

I teach English as a Second Language at a small university in British Columbia, and I write about literacy, teaching, yoga, and travel.

Many over-the-counter cold and allergy medications aimed to clear the sinuses and stop a runny nose contain an active ingredient called Phenylpropanolamine (PPA). According to the Healthy Canadians website, however, products containing this ingredient were recalled in 2000 because of a risk of hemorrhagic stroke, which can lead to death in some cases. Some of the over-the-counter treatments include Triaminic, Contac-C, and Dimetapp, all of which my family has often purchased when we had colds. Now we are thinking again.

If you would rather avoid drugs and treat your cold and allergy symptoms with natural remedies, try this method of nasal irrigation with a saline solution. This is an old yogic cleansing practice called neti. There are two ways to do it.

Natural Remedies for a Runny Nose from Colds and Allergies

The first way is with a neti pot which you can buy on-line or in a natural foods store for a few dollars. Add 1/4 teaspoon uniodized sea salt, and dissolve the salt in about 1/2 cup warm water. Use water that is safe to drink, or boiled and cooled if you are not sure. Then lean over the sink, turn your head to one side and pour the salt solution into the upper nostril until it runs out the lower nostril. The water then is running in one nostril, up through the nasal passage, and out the other nostril, clearing mucous and bathing the membranes as it goes. Use about half the pot of water in one nostril, then turn the head to the other side and do the opposite nostril. Once the neti pot is empty, block one nostril with your finger and expel the water and mucous from the open nostril, then clear the other.

Neti Pot Solution with Uniodized Sea Salt

1/4 teaspoon of sea salt in about 1/2 cup of water in the neti pot helps wash the mucous membranes and stop a runny nose without drugs.

1/4 teaspoon of sea salt in about 1/2 cup of water in the neti pot helps wash the mucous membranes and stop a runny nose without drugs.

Stop a Runny Nose with Salt Water and a Neti Pot

Uniodized Sea Salt for Nasal Irrigation to Stop a Runny Nose

I use uniodized sea salt for neti rather than iodized table salt.

I use uniodized sea salt for neti rather than iodized table salt.

Other remedies for sore throat and runny nose

  • Chew fresh ginger root. Peel the root, and cut it into small pieces. Keep them in a small container you can carry with you during the day, and every hour or so put a piece in your mouth, chew lightly to release the juice, suck the juice and hold it in your mouth before swallowing. Ginger helps relieve the sore throat and clears it up faster, and the fumes help clear the runny nose, too.
  • Drink hot water with lemon and honey.
  • Sleep. Take the day off work, stay in bed and rest. Don't make other people sick, and get well faster yourself. During sleep and deep relaxation the body's immune system functions, dividing antibody cells to fight disease.
  • Wash your hands often. Every time you blow your nose, germs get on your hands and everything you touch becomes a vector for germs to move to others.

Treatment for Runny Nose and Sore Throat

A second method, which is harder to learn but has the advantage of clearing the throat area and soothing a sore throat if you have this symptom as well as the runny nose with your cold, is to drink the salt water through both nostrils at once and spit it out the mouth. This method is easiest to do in the shower. I keep sea salt in a screw-top plastic container in my shower so it is easily available for a facial scrub and for neti during my shower. Dissolve about 1/4 teaspoon of uniodized sea salt in about 1/2 cup of warm water. Use a drinking cup or mug for this. Tip the cup so the saline solution is at the rim, then exhale and put both nostrils right under the water, and suck the water in through the nose. With practice you learn to block the throat with the tongue so the water does not go into the lungs, but at first while you are learning, you will probably choke and cough. Keep practicing.

Once the water is in the nose, spit it out the mouth. With practice, you will be able to develop a steady stream of water coming out your mouth.

How to Stop a Runny Nose and Sore Throat with Salt Water in a Mug

I keep a screw-top jar in my shower full of salt for neti.  I also put a little on my washcloth to gently exfoliate my face and neck, and my feet.  It leaves the skin very soft.

I keep a screw-top jar in my shower full of salt for neti. I also put a little on my washcloth to gently exfoliate my face and neck, and my feet. It leaves the skin very soft.

Benefits of Saline Nasal Irrigation

Why is this a good practice? The salt water dries out the mucous membranes and sterilizes the nose and throat, stopping the growth of virus or bacteria that are causing the infection. For several hours after, your nose will feel dry and clear, and your sore throat will diminish. Do it once or twice a day as needed.

Experiment with the amount of salt you need, depending on your body chemistry. If the water is too salty, you will gag. If the water is not salty enough, it will burn a little and feel uncomfortable on the mucous membranes.

Treatment for a Runny Nose Includes Relaxation

If you have a cold or are suffering from allergies, it is helpful to make time during your day to lie down flat on your back with your head slightly elevated, and relax. This supine position allows the sinuses to drain down the throat to where you can blow the nose gently or spit mucous out the mouth into a paper tissue. Spend the time practicing full diaphragmatic breathing into the belly, into the ribs, and into the collarbones to fully oxygenate the blood, blance the blood chemistry and allow deep cellular cleansing.

Follow the instructions below for a seven-minute guided relaxation with breathing. When you do this after practicing neti, you will get up with clear nasal pasages and feel great for hours.

Stop a Runny Nose with Guided Relaxation and Full Breathing


"Drug Products Containing Phenylpropanolamine." Healthy Canadians website

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.


Janis Goad (author) on November 12, 2012:

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Drinking a lot of water is key to staying healthy--at least 64 fluid ounces of pure water daily, in addition to whatever else you drink of coffee, tea juice, milk, and other drinks. Water is water.

Ashley Dwayne Casas from Los Angeles, California on September 26, 2012:

I used to drink lots of water when I have runny nose. Apparently, it does help me from colds.

Janis Goad (author) on September 25, 2012:

It is key to use pure, drinkable water in the neti pot, and to store it in a place where it can air dry.

Thanks for visiting and commenting, goldenthreadpress.

GoldenThreadPress on September 25, 2012:

We have used the neti pot and it does work. We did get rid of ours, though, because of the scare last year. For me, I'd rather not risk getting ill from the neti pot, but I'll sure give your other suggestions a try. Look out cold and flu season!

Janis Goad (author) on September 25, 2012:

Tyler, Thank you for your comment. I hope the neti pot works for you.

Susan, I think there is more mainstream acceptance of neti pots now than even 10 years ago, now people are more aware of the disadvantages of putting drugs and antihistamines into our bodies. I hope the neti pots work for you. thanks for the visit and for commenting!

JudiBee--ginger is really great for sore throats, and the saline spray has a similar effect to neti. The salt dries out the mucous membranes in the nasal passages.

Wilderness, I hope you stay well this winter and don't get a runny nose. If you do, remember this and try it. Sometimes I get sneezing fits, to and neti helps clear that out, too.

Ruchira, thank you so much for reading and commenting! I am so happy to hear from someone else who uses this method. It is so simple, cheap and effective, and you are right, it works for allergies like a charm.

Ruchira from United States on September 25, 2012:

Great and informative hub, janisgoad.

I have used this method and can vouch for it. It is also good for treating nasal allergies.

voted up as useful

Dan Harmon from Boise, Idaho on September 25, 2012:

Unlike Judi, I'm not around kids and have lost most of my runny noses, but still get one sometimes. Useful hub, and something I'll have to try!

Judi Brown from UK on September 25, 2012:

I'm definitely up for chewing ginger, but don't know if I could manage the salt water through the nose and out of my mouth. I do have a commercial spray that squirts salt water up my nostrils though - it sometimes helps.

Really useful for me - we've only been back at school for a couple of weeks and already half the school is snuffling and coughing.

Voted up and will share for the benefit of my suffering colleagues!

Susan Zutautas from Ontario, Canada on September 25, 2012:

My husband has been wanting to get a neti pot and after reading your hub I'll be getting one.

Tyler Tobin from North Carolina on September 25, 2012:

I can't stand a runny nose. I definitely am going to give the neti pot a try this year. Great Hub and hopefully it will help keep us runny nose free.

Voted Up and Useful!


Janis Goad (author) on June 23, 2012:

Thank you for visiting and commenting, TahoeDoc.

TahoeDoc from Lake Tahoe, California on June 23, 2012:

As a mainstream doctor, my friends are always surprised when I recommend a neti pot to them for nasal congestion, LOL. But, it works. As you said, always use a safe supply of water-- distilled or boiled and cooled. The amoeba is rare, but fatal if in the water supply. There could potentially be other pathogens in water that isn't safe, too.

Great hub- I'll try the ginger and then recommend that, as well and really blow their minds :) And you are right, you can't get well without sleep!

Up and useful- nice job.

Janis Goad (author) on June 23, 2012:

It's in my front-line arsenal when I feel a scratchy throat. It really works.

Thanks for visiting and commenting. LauraG!

LauraGSpeaks from Raleigh, NC on June 23, 2012:

I have never heard of using ginger before. I'll have to try that. Thanks for the idea.

Janis Goad (author) on June 23, 2012:

There were a couple of cases in Louisiana where people died because of an amoeba infection from using impure water in the neti pot. Water should be drinking water safe, or boiled and cooled if you aren't sure. It is also important to rinse the neti pot, drain it, and air-dry it after each use so no water remains inside.

Heather from Arizona on June 23, 2012:

Didn't the neti pot cause health problems or was that just an internet hoax?

Penelope Hart from Rome, Italy on June 22, 2012:

Another superb Hub filled with the most helpful suggestions. Thank you so much. I often have a mild sore throat and love ginger, so this is certainly a tip I'll enjoy. The salt water in my nose thing sounds like torture but possibly less torture than a runny nose! Great stuff!!!

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