Travelers With Sinus Issues Beware: Brain-Eating Amoeba Death Linked to Neti Pot

Dec 9, 2018

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If you’ve ever traveled for an extended period of time, especially by air, you’ve probably suffered from the occasional bout of dry sinuses or worse, a sinus infection. One of the more popular and inexpensive solutions to combat the effects of a dry and stuffy nose is a neti pot. Neti pots flush out mucus and blockage to alleviate the symptoms of a stuffy nose or dry sinuses. Many users swear by them, especially on the road. However, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has issued a new warning for neti pot users concerning a potentially fatal misuse of the product.

A 69-year old woman from Seattle who used a neti pot to battle chronic sinus infections is confirmed to have died as a result of a powerful brain-eating amoeba she contracted from tap water that made its way through her nasal passages and to her brain. Doctors believe that the untreated tap water contained balamuthia mandrillaris, an amoeba that often leads to the fatal brain infection.

The woman first reported symptoms when she visited a doctor with a raised red bump on the bridge of her nose. The infection progressed rapidly. According to reports via CNN, the woman reported that the left side of her body began to shake and she experienced a seizure. The woman was officially diagnosed with the brain-eating amoeba at the nonprofit Swedish Clinic, where she had been receiving treatment. An anti-amoeba drug was sent to her but it was too late. She slipped into a coma and later died.

While the neti pot can be a great way to stay healthy on the road, the CDC has issued the following guidelines to ensure that you don’t contract an infection or worse while using the product:

  1. Use distilled or sterile water. If using tap or filtered water, boil for several minutes and let cool until lukewarm.
  2. Tilt your head sideways over the sink and place the spout of the neti pot in the upper nostril.
  3. Breathing through your open mouth, gently pour the saltwater solution into your upper nostril so that the liquid drains through the lower nostril.
  4. Repeat on the other side.
  5. Rinse the irrigation device after each use with similarly distilled, sterile, previously boiled and cooled, or filtered water and leave open to air-dry.
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Brita filters and similar products are not sufficient in removing water impurities. We highly recommend visiting a pharmacy or grocery store when on the road to purchase sterilized water. And never use the water in an aircraft lavatory — even if it is boiled.

The neti pot can be a fantastic travel tool. However, like any over-the-counter medical product, it can be detrimental to one’s health if used incorrectly.

This post has been updated with the name of the clinic where the woman was treated.

Featured image via Getty Images

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