A Pot to Drown In

I am a desperate woman.  Allergies made me that way.

To combat my sinus headaches, I now go to an acupuncturist to poke little needles in my feet, arms and head.  I’m paying a fortune (my insurance policy is too unelightened, too Western-medicine centric, to reimburse for acupuncture), but I’m feeling better.

But not better enough.  On bad days, I continue to feel as if my head has been stuffed with cotton balls.  I can’t think.  I lose IQ points.  Worst of all, when asked how I am, I begin to complain about my allergies.  I swap long, whiny stories with other allergy victims; in Austin, the Allergy Capital of the Universe, there are a lot of us.  I used to find these stories deeply boring.  Now, I am enthralled by them.

Recently, I read about some kind of ancient Indian therapy.  This fits.  I like Indian food and I do yoga and I get acupuncture.  What could be more perfect than yet another source of ancient Eastern wisdom?

I buy a Neti pot.  It looks like a little teapot, with a spout.  It’s dishwasher-proof, the insert says.  On the promotional literature, I see a photo of a woman who’s using a Neti pot to pour saltwater into one nostril, which empties out the other.  The woman looks quite happy and cheerful.  She’s smiling as she pours.  She probably has very clean nasal passages.  She probably doesn’t have sinus headaches.  She may not even pay someone to poke needles in her body.  I want to be that smiling, sinus-free woman.

“I’m trying something new,” I tell my husband.  “It’s better than complaining about my allergies all the time.”

He agrees, more or less, that yes, anything would be better than that.

I go into the bathroom and lock the door (the instructions say you will want to be near a sink or basin, since you’ll be leaking water and snot all over the place.  For hygienic purposes and marital harmony, I won’t use the kitchen sink).  I begin to pour.  Salt water gushes into my nostrils and my throat.  I begin to make choking and gagging noises.  I turn on the overhead fan so my husband won’t hear.

Maybe 1/100th of the solution is gone.  I begin to pour some more.  I choke, I gag, I’m pretty sure I’m drowning.  Is this what waterboarding is like?

I switch nostrils, trying to find my “good side.”  It turns out, I don’t have a good side.  I can drown equally well through either nostril.  I have the feeling the Neti pot people wouldn’t want me in any of their promotional literature; I look like a facial contortionist, painted by Munch, as I pour and gag and wheeze.

Twenty minutes later — or maybe it’s 20 hours later — I finally stagger out of the bathroom.  Behind me, the bathroom floor is flooded with saltwater.  But I have finished my nasal irrigation.  So I look like a drowned rodent?  My sinuses are clear.  I can breathe.  I can talk about something other than my allergies.  I am a functioning human being again.

If I don’t kill myself, if I don’t end up in a drowned heap on the bathroom floor, I may have cured my little allergy problem.  I may not need to talk about my acute suffering, even if you beg me.

In the meantime, be careful when you come to our house.  That might not be a teapot you’re picking up.

(Copyright 2008 by Ruth Pennebaker)

11 comments… add one
  • Goodness, “at home, self-inflicted waterboarding”?

    Tho, if it truly helps, I may have to see about getting one of those!

    The last product I picked up as a result of your blog (the TV-B-GONE — which has proved oh-so-useful at doctor’s offices! — http://www.tvbgone.com/) is a success, so I am waiting with allergy-bated breath to see how this works for you!

  • Call my husband. His allergies start in July and are reaching a snotty crescendo now. He will gladly swap tales. I’m less moist but I have entered the sinus headache season.

    I am a neti pot devotee. It will get easier, I promise.

    A friend’s mom picked up her neti pot, said “what’s this?” and put the spout in her mouth and tried to make it toot.

  • Cindy Link

    Ruth — I occasionally use a product called Ayr from the HEB pharmacy.  It is the exact same concept as the Indian deal but much, much easier to use.  It’s just a squeeze bottle–you put distilled water and a pre-measured packet of salt in it.  In the shower, you bend forward and squirt the water into one nostril until it pours out the other nostril, then do the same for the other nostril. 

    The bending forward is important and will prevent gagging.  The shower is important to wash the yuck away. I can’t imagine trying to pour water into my nose from a teapot! No way!


  • ruthpennebaker Link

    I love the TV be gone idea.  I’ve heard about something similar for cellphones, too.  Won’t it be great to turn into a high-tech vigilante?

    Thank you all for the suggestion.  I struggle on.

  • Ah, if it will give you any solace, I can assure you that you will eventually get to the point where you can breeze through an irrigation slick as eel snot – oops! Seriously, keep it up. Since I began using one, years ago, I haven’t had a single sinus infection or winter cold, not to mention that I can breathe out of my left nostril now.

  • Steve Link

    The neti pot is such a wuss approach.  What you need is power!  For more than 20 years my household has used a WaterPik and adapter for saline nasal lavage.  It not only helps with allergies–my son has burned through several WaterPiks–it’s fabulous when you have the common cold or sinus infection.  You also get to hold your upright over the sink, so it’s less awkward and less messy than the neti pot.  Turning your head to the side while bending over the sink is not an easy movement at my age.  Use pickling salt; it’s the purest on the grocery store shelf.

  • ruthpennebaker Link

    What do you mean — a wuss approach, Steve?  Didn’t I make it clear?  I almost drowned using it.

    I do love all the snotty advice I’ve been getting, though.

  • I get the water stuck in my sinus and five minutes later all the water comes out. It is better than using pills that make you fall asleep.

  • Ha! I had a similar experience, Ruth. The smiling woman on the package was not me. I ended up switching to one of those little plastic bottles you pour the sinus rinse into and then fill with water. That seems to offer a little more control as to where the water goes when it enters your system. Sort of.

  • Oh, dear. I’ll never look at a tiny teapot the same way.

  • Oh lord, I had the same experience. It took me a few tries, but I finally got it down. Neti pots are AMAZING.

    Though, I have to use mine in the shower because I end up spraying snot and saltwater all over the bathroom if I use the sink. No bueno.

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