The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is warning people that improper use of nasal irrigation systems like Neti Pots can increase the risk of infection.

Neti Pots help flush out clogged nasal passages and help people breathe easier. They are typically used to treat congested sinuses, colds and allergies and moisten nasal passages exposed to dry indoor air.

However, the type of water you use can cause health problems.

The FDA says using tap water isn’t safe to use for a nasal rinse because it’s not 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).”

What Types of Water Are Safe to Use?

  • Distilled or sterile water, which you can buy in stores. The label will state “distilled” or “sterile.”
  • Boiled and cooled tap water – boiled for 3 to 5 minutes, then cooled until it is lukewarm. Previously boiled water can be stored in a clean, closed container for use within 24 hours.
  • Water passed through a filter designed to trap potentially infectious organisms. CDC has information on selecting these filters.

Learn more on how to safely use Neti Pots and similar nasal irrigation devices.

Health care professionals and patients can report problems about nasal rinsing devices to the FDA’s MedWatch Safety Information and Adverse Event Reporting Program.