Melissa Greenspan MD: Writer’s recommendation can be dangerous

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Published: 3/25/2020 3:25:45 PM

I am writing in response to a March 23 letter from Cynthia Loring Macbain titled “Tips to staying safe.” While obviously well intentioned, her recommendation for cleaning the nasal passages is actually dangerous.

In a notice dated Jan. 24, 2017, the Food and Drug Administration says about nasal irrigation, “First, rinse only with distilled, sterile or previously boiled water. Tap water isn’t safe for use as a nasal rinse because it’s not adequately filtered or treated. Some tap water contains low levels of organisms — such as bacteria and protozoa, including amoebas — that may be safe to swallow because stomach acid kills them. But in your nose, these organisms can stay alive in nasal passages and cause potentially serious infections. They can even be fatal in some rare cases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).”

If distilled, sterile, or previously boiled tap water is used, this procedure is considered safe for those with normal immune systems. For those with compromised immune systems, the FDA recommends checking with you medical provider before trying this.

Melissa Greenspan MD


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