We also are all aware (especially via advertising) that medications can be taken that treat allergies, “hay fever”, colds, flu, etc. – physical ailments that tend to produce nasal-clogging mucus in our nostrils. Many of these medicines are available over the counter, while others require a prescription. It is also important to note, with regard to sleep-enhancing treatments, that some of the medications are specifically intended for use prior to going to bed. While these evening drugs might induce sleep (or at least not keep us awake as do the daytime medications), they often contain ingredients that do more harm than good—especially for those of us with high-blood pressure or those who need to avoid consumption of alcohol.
There are other over the counter (or prescribed) medications that have been widely used over the past century. These are the nasal sprays—which often contain medications similar to those found in medicines that we swallow rather than spray. These sprays often proport to not only clean our nose but also assist in curing some of the other ailments (such as the common cold and flu) that the other medicines are intended to treat. Some controversy regarding the efficacy of these nasal sprays and some concerns about the medicines contained in these sprays have arisen in recent years. This controversy centers at times on the potential addictive properties of the sprays. There are concerns about addiction. We become increasingly tolerant of the spray’s impact, resulting in our increasingly frequent use of the spray to reduce nasal congestion (or attain some specific physical or mental state).
There are two other more “natural” modes of nasal cleansing that have long traditions in certain societies. First, there is the use of humidity and steam. One can place a humidifier in the bedroom or linger over a pot of steaming water. Devices can also be used that specifically provide steam to one’s nose as a way to not just clean but also relax our nostrils. One can engage in an even more elaborate procedure of taking a hot, steaming shower or bath. In some societies we find the use of steam baths, steam rooms and even saunas as modes which yield not just cleaner and more relaxed nostrils, but also overall improvement in health (achieving such outcomes as increase in circulation of blood, cleansing of skin pores, and relaxation of muscles). Even without the elaborate preparation (and cost) associated with these steam-filled rooms, we can simply apply a how steaming compress to our face.
In Western societies there is a long history of salt washes. Small amounts of salt and sodium bicarbonate are added to distilled or boiled water. With our head tilled, this mixture is then slowly introduced into each nostril using a baster or rubber dropper. The saline solution exits the other nostril as we lean over a sink. Non-Western societies have introduced us to a similar mode that can be deployed to clear our nose for more frequent and effective breathing. This mode also involves the washing of our nostrils with a saline solution. There is the traditional Neti Pot—involving the placement of a pot of water (with a saline solution) near the nostril. One pulls in the saline water. It travels through the first nostril and out the second nostril (and one’s mouth). This procedure is then repeated with the water moving through the second nostril and out the first one.
More recently, this nasal cleansing procedure has been made more accessible through the use of plastic bottles containing the saline solution (which is added to distilled water). The content of this bottle is squeezed through one nostril and out the other nostril and mouth. The procedure is then repeated in the other nostril. Appliances are also available to provide this nasal rinse via a pump built into the appliance. Saline water is pumped into one nostril from one partition of the appliance and then out the other nostril (ending up in a second partition of the appliance). As in the case of the manual nasal rinse, this cleansing procedure is repeated in the other nostril.