Thursday, April 19

Q: What do Neti Pots and CPAP Machines have in Common?

A: You should always use distilled water when using these products. Never use tap water!

Those suffering from sinusitis, allergies, and colds might turn to their trusty neti pot or squeeze bottle to flush their nasal passages and relieve their chronic symptoms. Although the practice of nasal cleansing has been around for centuries, these modern-day products are not free from dangers and negative side effects.

In 2011, two people died from encephalitis caused by an infection with brain-eating amoebas after using neti pots that contained contaminated tap water. (By the way, for my dear friends from Louisian, both these people were from good ol' LA!)
The microbe, Naegleria fowleri, is common in lakes, rivers, and hot springs, and may also be found in drinking water. It's now strongly advised that people use distilled or filtered water for their nasal irrigation device and clean them thoroughly to kill potential amoebas.

While the directions that came with my CPAP machine did say to only use distilled bottled water in the humidifier devise, I do not recall my neti pot (that I purchased about 5 years ago) coming with such a warning--or at least I don't remember one. In fact, I only recall, it simply saying to use warm water.

But my memory isn't what it used to be. All I know is that all I've ever used in my neti pot was tap water! Yikes!

Frankly, I thought that the CPAP machine wanted you to use bottled water in order to avoid hard water, like we have in SoCal--that stuff could destroy the machine in no time flat. So I have faithfully used distilled water in my precious CPAP machine; even more faithfully after reading about these amoeba-related deaths!!

Because, logically speaking, if warnings are now going out about only using distilled water in one's neti pot to avoid brain-eating amoebas it only makes sense that one use distilled water in one's CPAP machine for the same reason.

As a side note, our stomachs can handled them, because of the acid, but when they are forced directly into the nasal passages, they head straight for the brain, which doesn't have all that protective acid.

Anyway, I've been meaning to pass on this information for months now (since I first heard about it in December or January), but this week's episode of House reminded me that I never did. It's either really amazing or really sad how many weird things on House that I can relate to in my real life in one way or another!

By the way, distilled water: by definition, involves boiling the water and then condensing the steam into a clean container. It's a slow process, but it not only kills any micro-organisms much like simple boiling does, but also removes any inorganic "impurities" that may be harmful like mercury as well as beneficial minerals including calcium, magnesium, and sodium. Distillation does not discriminate.

Because few people have homes where they can have a distillery set up, it is easier to buy distilled bottled water. My grandparents, however, had a home water distillery for as long as I can remember and my grandmother would only ever drink the water they carried with them where ever they went!

In case you need more proof or want to read the gruesome details for your self, visit these sites:
-NPR's Health Blog: Second Neti-Pot Death from Amoeba Prompts Tap-Water Warning

-ABC News: Louisiana Issues Neti Pot Warning After Two Fatal Infections (fun video with this one!)

-Medical News Today: Brain-Eating Amoeba Kills Two People After Using Neti Pots (doesn't this headline sound like the amoebas were using the neti pots before they then headed out and killed people???)

-Fauquier Ears Nose Throat Consultants Blog: Amoeba Deaths from Neti-Pot Use and How to Minimize Risk

Want more: there are a truckload of news and blog articles listed on Google.

If you are wondering why on earth I posted this, it's because I wrote it for my fibromyalgia support group, but some other people expressed interest as to why I was reading articles about brain-eating amoebas...and "just for fun" wouldn't satisfy them! ;-)


  1. I did the same thing with sinus irrigation up until about 2 weeks ago. Come on, bigger labels for this stuff please! :)

  2. You made some excellent points in that post. I find this a really interesting subject.
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