Guest Column: Your mother's wisdom: wash your nose

Do you remember how good it felt, having your mother take care of you when you were sick? She’d let you stay home from school, and make you drink lots of juice, soup and tea. And she’d constantly remind you to cover your mouth and wash your hands so everyone else in the family wouldn’t get sick, too.

It turns out that our mother’s wisdom is still the best treatment for the flu and the common cold. Rest, drink plenty of fluids, and wash your hands often. However, we have now improved on mother’s counsel by adding one piece of ancient wisdom: Wash the nose!

Sound strange? Actually this is a very old technique, and it’s only common sense. The nose is the body’s air filter, and it is responsible for protecting the lungs from dust, pollen, pollutants and viral particles. Viral particles enter the body through the nose, the mouth, and the eyes—in that order. So while mother’s advice to wash your hands and protect your mouth is important, washing the nose is truly essential to maintaining good health. The nose actually filters the air we breathe by capturing debris and particles in tiny hairs that line the inside of the nose. Washing keeps the body’s filter clean and in good working order. Washing also removes trapped particles, preventing invasion of the mucus membranes, thereby preventing allergies and respiratory infections.

As with many new skills, using the proper equipment and learning the best technique makes all the difference. There are many nose washing devices available on the market, from the ancient ceramic “neti pot” to high-powered irrigation machines. The best washing solutions contain salt and a buffering agent—both for comfort and effectiveness. A hypertonic mixture (saltier than the body’s own membranes) has been shown to work best, acting as a natural decongestant and having antibacterial qualities.

So when you look for a nose washing system look for the following qualities: A bottle easy to hold with wet hands, unbreakable in the shower and simple to clean. The bottle should allow for good control of pressure and flow. A system made to travel easily is important because you will want to rinse after air travel and when you are away from home. The solution should be labeled “hypertonic”, and it should be “buffered” for your comfort. Some systems are designed for optimal head position, thus getting the best result for your efforts. Choose a system that gives you clear instructions and support so you can learn the proper technique. The learning takes just a bit of time, but once you get it, you’ll actually enjoy the sensation of a clean nose. For many of us, it has become a morning habit right along with brushing our teeth.

With so many available to choose from, my favorite system is Dr. Hana’s Nasopure. It has all the qualities I look for, with the added benefit of being one of the most economical products on the market.

With modern nose washing systems now readily available, we have, in fact, improved on our mother’s wisdom. I’m certain she would agree that keeping your nose clean is an essential part of staying healthy through the cold and flu season. After all, mother always knew best!

Dr. Hana R Solomon, M.D. can be contacted at

From the Jan. 10-16, 2007, issue

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