Oprah and Me, or How I Reluctantly Kicked the Habit of Being Sick

A little more than a year ago I traveled to Japan to do some volunteer work. While there, I shared an overnight train with someone who was very sick. He coughed and sniffed with a rumble that filled me with dread until he left the train car after hours of exposure. Two weeks later I had the same noisy rumble. Months after I recovered I went to a business conference in Chicago during a winter cold front. For a week I shared a conference room with people who brought cold bugs from all over the country. I was miserable and in bed considering myself lucky that I happened to be waiting for an assignment while recovering. Then there was the cold I got at the office here in Atlanta, no missed work, but it seemed to last forever and I didn’t want to be the person filling others with dread. With three nasty sinus problems in less than a year, I finally decided that home remedies were not doing the trick and it was time to seek antibiotics. I went to a local doc in a box and they didn’t have my medical records. It had been too long since I visited and they wanted to charge me as a new patient. I hung my head and said “You know, $150 is a lot to pay for permission to get a $7 drug.” Amoxicillin, a drug that costs less than most health insurance co-pays, has always done the trick for me. So, they told me about the Take Care Clinic in the Walgreen’s at Sandy Plains Rd and Shallowford Rd in Marietta. I went see the nurse practitioner there. The fee was less than half of what the other facility was going to charge and I was thankful to know about it. I asked the nurse practitioner about my mother’s favourite home remedy, the salt water nasal spay. She said that it was a good treatment, but that you needed to use it several times a day to get benefit and then recommended a neti pot as a better choice. I didn’t know anything about a neti pot. She described it as looking like a teapot and being used for nasal irrigation. She also told me that Oprah used it and had shown one on TV. I later found out a couple of people I knew also used them and loved them.

My antibiotics worked and I was healthy, but I was curious. I always try to follow simple self help when I know about it. I wasn’t looking forward to pouring water “up my nose”, but I didn’t want to be sick next time I was exposed to the crud either, nor did I want to spend a lot of money on medical care. I bought the plastic version sold in a kit with packets of rinse mixture at Walmart for a low cost trial. The price varied by $4 at different Walmarts, the first time I had ever noticed something like that. It took me a couple of months to decide to buy one. I kept looking for the lower price and did not find it again until after I had already bought mine. Then it took me a couple of months to get the nerve to use it. My boyfriend was teasing me about the whole thing while the kit sat in the bathroom unused. A girlfriend was visiting. She was curoius and she tried to get me started. I just said “Okay, if I’ve put it off this long, I’m not doing it with an audience for the very first time.” More delay…. but the winter cold season finally rolled around again and the pressure was on. I finally submitted to the teapot of nasal irrigation and now I too am among the ranks of those who swear by the pot. One friend advised that I only need half a packet of mix and that seemed to work. My personal choice is half a packet with a half-full pot. There have been no sinus problems this winter and I am a believer!

Neti pots are available in ceramic, plastic and metal from local spas, discount stores, pharmacies and on line. When I searched for a sampling of different pots I noticed that neti is part of the practice of yoga and there are many types of pot as well as rinse. I recommend a simple kit, at least for starter. Make your choice of material and shape based on price, appearance, break-ability, portability and how comfortable you are with the shape at the nostril. The elephant is pretty cute! A simple salt based rinse has worked well for me but there are also rinses that contain zinc and/or herbs.

If you would like to find a Take Care Clinic at the Walgreen’s near you, I think it is easier to use Anywho.com than it is to use the Walgreen’s web page to locate it. Anywho.com gives addresses which were missing when I looked on the Walgreen’s page.

And, if you are interested in more about the trip to Japan, some reviews of my trip are shared on Viewpoints.com and can be found here.

I have never used the syringe shown below, but if I take another extended trip like the one in Japan, I think I’ll consider taking one rather than trying to find something unusual in a country where I don’t speak the language.

Editors Update: The true test of something is longevity and I am still using my neti pot. I have now tried a few of the varieties above. I think I may prefer the long narrow design (the one that is a little like Alladin’s Lamp). It seems to put a little umph behind the flow with just a little bit of tilt and it packs well in a suitcase. I still recommend trying a variety though. Preferences are as individual as people.