Organism in tap water prompts Neti pot warning

Organism in tap water prompts Neti pot warning »Play Video

PORTLAND, Ore. – A lot of people use the Neti pot to help clear clogged nasal passages. But how safe are they? Some people are asking that question now that two people in the South died when an organism in tap water they used in their Neti pots attacked their brains.

The problem is naegleria, an organism that is usually found in warm water areas like the South but not as much in Oregon.

According to a local expert, even through it's rare here, people need to stop using tap water for their Neti pots or squeeze bottles to stay safe.

Neti pots and squeeze bottles are used to send water through the nose. They can help with allergies, colds and infections.

For years many people have used tap water and a salt packet to do the rinse. But Dr. Michael Barrett at Kaiser Sunnyside says, "If you're gonna squirt this stuff (tap water) up your nose, you'll want to boil the water."

Naegleria is changing the guidelines after it killed two people in Louisiana through tap water in their Neti pots.

"The particular organism that we're concerned about can only make people sick by coming through the nose," Barrett says. "It cannot make you sick by swallowing it. You digest that organism and you kill it."

You can keep it out of your nose and brain by using distilled water in your Neti pot or squeeze bottle.

You can also boil the water. Barrett recommends boiling the water for 10 to 15 minutes. Let it cool and add the salt packet or salt. And remember, the salt is not enough to kill the organism.

Do not rinse the Neti pot with tap water; instead, let it air dry for about 24 hours. If you do rinse it, use boiled or distilled water only.

According to the state health department, the water in this area is rather cool so the chances of naegleria in the tap water are very low. And the chances of dying from it are even lower.

But Barrett says naegleria isn't tested for here so it is better to stay on the safe side.