In recent days, I’ve received a number of emails with links to this article…”Brain-Eating Amoeba Kill Second Neti Pot User.” Apparently, two Louisiana folks who were using neti pots died of a rare infection with an amoeba by the name of Naeleria fowleri. This amoeba can enter the patient’s nose, and cause a menigoencephalitis which can destroy the brain. Ordinarily, this amoeba might enter the nose when a person swims in freshwater lakes, rivers or streams contaminated by the amoeba. In these two cases, the amoeba entered the nose through the neti pot.
The take home message is not that one should stop using neti pots, but rather that one should use distilled water or otherwise purified water, rather than tap water, in the neti pot. It is self evident that one would not want to use the heavily chemicalized water that flows from our taps, but not self evident that that very same tap water may contain “brain eating” amoebas. So… please be careful that you use pure water in your neti pot, and be sure to wash and dry the neti pot thoroughly after every use. (Having said that, the two neti pot users included, a total of 32 cases of this amoeba have been documented in the United States in the last 10 years, making it somewhat more likely that you might win the lottery than acquire this infection from rinsing your sinuses. You might, however, want to be wary of dunking your head in questionable swimming holes.)