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Your Nose Knows COVID

Human nose with rustic Enter Here sign above it
Photos by RussN and mj0007/Getty Images — Created Using Canva
Scott Ahlsmith

Scott Ahlsmith

Use nasal lavage to remove your body’s COVID welcome mat

Soft, sticky mucus covers the interior of our noses and traps dust particles, bacteria, and airborne viruses.

Gargling and nasal irrigation using a mild antimicrobial saline solution, similar to the salinity of our tears, offer a practical at-home therapy to possibly protect us from COVID-19 variants.

Those of us of a certain age and those living with underlying medical conditions are at risk of severe illness from airborne viruses that cause COVID-19.

Severe illness means the possibility of hospitalization, intensive care, a ventilator to assist breathing, or death. According to Our World in Data, since January 23, 2020, more than 5.5 million people worldwide have died from COVID -19 Coronavirus.

Since our noses are the gateway to our body’s air filtration system, keeping our nasal and throat passages free from debris makes sense. Incidentally, pheromones, aromas from wines, and bread baking should not be considered debris.

Due to my age and chronic diseases, I am interested in mitigating risks leading to severe illness. Additionally, I am motivated to help others with similar challenges by writing about my strategies and routines to lead an active and fulfilling life and several chronic illnesses.

Point of Personal Privilege, Please?

After years of minimal results from popping gobs of antibiotics to combat suspected sinus infections, my kidneys failed, hemoptysis (coughing up blood) set in, and I was given eight hours in the intensive care unit to either recover or die.

A brilliant young nephrologist evaluated my symptoms during those eight hours and diagnosed microscopic polyangiitis (MPA) vasculitis. Essentially, my immune system was confused, and my antibodies attacked my healthy organs.

This rare form of vasculitis assaults capillaries and small blood vessels found in sinuses, lungs, heart, kidneys, and virtually any part of the body reliant on blood flow. One of my lucid ICU epiphanies connected this attack on my small blood vessels with years of sinus infections.

My nephrologist quickly assembled a talented team of medical professionals who simultaneously researched MPA vasculitis while conducting what seemed like an endless cycle of scrum standups, testing, and diagnoses.

During this trial and error month of hospitalization, I overheard one of the doctors on this team say, “I’ve read about MPA vasculitis in medical journals, but I’ve never had the opportunity to treat a patient with the disease.” I felt special!

Spoiler Alert!

It’s more than three years later, and I feel much better. My lungs allow me to walk at least two miles every day, my dialysis treatments shrunk from 12 hours per week to six, and my sinus infections are in the rearview mirror.

Part of my recovery protocol was a twice-daily throat and nasal saline rinse. This treatment stems from traditional East-India healthcare known as Ayurveda, a natural and holistic approach to physical and mental health.

Initially, I rinsed my nasal passages using the traditional Ayurveda neti pot. [Notethe link above is an affiliate.] Jala neti means “nasal cleansing,” which comes from classical Sanskrit and in Eastern cultures, is as routine as teeth brushing.

A neti pot with sea salt, measuring spoon, candles, and towel
Baraka Neti Pot [Note: this is an affiliate link] by MandriaPix/

The procedure is simple, fill the Aladin Lamp-shaped neti pot with 1 cup (237g) of distilled or purified (boiled) water and about ¼ tsp (3gr) of mineral sea salt that does not contain iodide or preservatives.

To prevent the equivalent of an ice cream headache, I warm the water in a microwave oven set at half power for 45 seconds. [Caution: Microwave oven power settings vary, so you will want to make sure the heated water temperature is below 95°F (35°C).]

After combing and thoroughly stirring the water and salt, pour the saline solution into the neti pot. Tilt your head sideways over the sink and place the spout of the neti pot in the upper nostril. Breathing through your open mouth, gently pour the saltwater solution into your upper nostril.

Gravity takes over from here. The saline solution enters one nostril, circulates through your nasal passages, and exits through the opposite nostril, the one nearest the sink.

Next, repeat using the other nostril and then gently blow your nose to remove excess saline solution and accompanying debris.

Your first few attempts at nasal irrigation might feel strange. Water flowing from one nostril through your sinuses and coming out the other nostril is new to most of us. However, as long as you are leaning over a sink and keeping your head tilted away from the neti pot, the soothing and cleansing saline solution will work its antimicrobial magic.

Navage Nasal Care System [Note: this is an affiliate link] Photo by Scott Ahlsmith/Author

After a year of using the neti pot, I invested in the Navage Nasal Care system. It performs the nasal cleansing action by using gentle suction to draw the saline solution into one nostril by sucking it from the other. It cleans both nostrils by simply rotating the nose dock that holds the nose pillows (Navage’s term, not mine!) on the front of the device.

I like the Navage system. Its mechanical suction appears to be more efficient than nature’s gravity. It also captures the cleaning solution after rinsing your nasal passages. Inspecting fouled saline solution may sound vulgar, but it’s a good indication of what environmental debris your nose collects.

According to an October 2021, National Institutes of Health (NI) sanctioned study, twice-daily nasal irrigation can reduce the severity of COVID and, in some cases, prevent the virus from infecting your body.

“For the virus to get into the system, it had to hook onto something called an ACE2 receptor,” Dr. Amy Baxter, a Clinical Associate Professor of Emergency Medicine at MCG, explains. “It was taking so long, and it was clear that if you just reduced the amount of virus that was able to get on, you could decrease the severity of illness. In emergency medicine, one of the things we do is irrigate away bacteria and viruses. If you get a laceration or cut, you flush it out with normal saline. This has been done for sinus infections for years.”

I use Navage every morning and evening before brushing my teeth. Since MPA vasculitis depletes the natural immune cells in my sinuses, my ENT specialist feels that more cleaning is better than less.

As with any medical treatment, be sure to speak with your doctor about using sinus rinses and stop using them if you experience pain, nosebleeds, or other discomforts.


My writing is reader-supported. This means my stories may contain affiliate links and I participate in the Amazon Services LLC, Associates Program. an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for me to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites. By purchasing products through this story’s links. there is no additional cost to you.


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