Cathy Hamilton: Laughter a cure for sinusitis


I am leaning over the kitchen sink, pouring a pitcher of salt water through my nose.

Inserting the spout of a miniature teapot into my right nostril, I tilt my head just so. After a moment, the water streams - then trickles, then streams again - out the nostril on the other side.

If you can get a visual on this, you might achieve the same height of hilarity I experienced the first time I used my neti pot.

That's "neti." It rhymes with "Betty," and it's my latest obsession.

Of all the body parts giving me grief these days, it's my nose that is the most annoying. How can this be? How can one of the smallest organs I own cause me the most grief on a regular basis? My nose is tiny. Dare I say, diminutive? You could hardly call it a schnoz, or even a honker. And don't even think about calling it a beak, unless you're comparing it to the famously short-billed glossy swiftlet.

Yet, for all its compactness, my nose seems to be overflowing with problems from season to season.

In April, my nostrils flare with grass and tree pollen allergies. Dripping, sniffling, blowing and hacking. These are the sounds of my spring song.

Summertime brings air conditioning and dry, swollen sinus cavities that throb under my eyeglasses.

Ragweed blooms in September, causing sneezing, stuffiness and furious itching followed by the much-anticipated, biannual sinus infection.

Then winter arrives and, for a moment, I think, "Great! It's a frozen tundra out there. What could possibly infiltrate my cilia now?" But soon, my nasal passages ache with dust and overheated, ultra-dry air, and no amount of gurgling humidifiers can soothe them.

So, naturally, when watching another Dr. Oz appearance on Oprah, I was fascinated to view a demonstration of the "nose bidet," aka neti pot.

Nasal irrigation is an ancient Ayurvedic practice. Used for centuries in parts of India and southeast Asia, the neti pot stimulates the sinuses and helps to clear out inflammation-causing mucus which, if left to build up, can result in sinusitis.

"This is a better treatment than a lot of the other drugs ... because it mechanically cleans out the problem," Dr. Oz said.

Sure, if you can keep a straight face while using the darn thing.

Naturally, I rushed right out to purchase my own neti pot and some non-iodized salt. Soon, I was at the kitchen sink, filling my nose bidet with a warm, homemade saline solution.

I assumed the position: Head cocked to the left, chin tucked in slightly, mouth open (very important), neti pot in nostril. I lifted the pot and felt the water rising high into my sinuses. I expected the water to escape through the other nostril immediately, but it took awhile. For a moment, I thought it might be leaking into my brain.

After a few seconds, the water started to flow into the basin. Just then, I caught a glimpse of myself in the window over the sink. I collapsed in laughter, salt water spraying everywhere. I tried to choke back my chortles, but it was too late. I was in church hysteria mode. (You know the phenomenon - the harder you try to stifle yourself, the harder you have to laugh.)

Soon, I was gripping the countertops - shoulders convulsing, gagging on salt water and cackling at the top of my lungs. My eyes were watering, my pulse was racing, oxygen rushed to my brain.

Finally, I straightened up, collected myself and took inventory of my senses.

Hey! My sinuses felt great. Clear, clean and delightfully moisturized. I was hooked. (Although I was sure my technique wasn't what the Ayurvedic practitioners had in mind.)

I've been "doing the neti" twice a day ever since. So far, it's working like a charm. And when I want a complete and thorough cleansing - an "extreme irrigation," if you will - all I have to do is catch myself in the act in the glass, and I'm good to go.

Cathy Hamilton is editor of and a 52-year-old empty-nester. Events recounted here may be embellished, exaggerated or completely made up because she can't remember squat anymore.


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