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CDC Issues Warning About Nasal Washes

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A student at Kunsberg School at National Jewish Health performes a nasal wash (credit: CBS)

A student at Kunsberg School at National Jewish Health performes a nasal wash (credit: CBS)

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DENVER (CBS4) – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and National Jewish Health in Colorado both have issued a warning about nasal washes after two people have died from using tap water to do their sinus rinse.

Health experts say it’s safe to use nasal washes. It’s not about the rinse, it’s about the water. They warn that a mixture from a faucet could be fatal.

Reading, writing — and sinus rinses. They’re part of the curriculum for some students at Kunsberg School at National Jewish Health. Saltwater nasal washes can help asthma and allergy sufferers.

The saline rinses are highly recommended at National Jewish for children and adults.

“I do them at home if I have a bad cold,” said Marie Fornof, Certified Infection Preventionist.

But Fornof says not to use tap water. It’s because of a brain-eating amoeba called Naegleria fowleri. It’s common in warm rivers and lakes, but if it travels up the nose to the brain it’s usually deadly.

RELATED LINK: Recommendation From National Jewish

“To give you perspective, over the past decade where the CDC has looked at it, the 32 cases they had 31 patients died,” Fornof said.

The brain infections caused by the amoeba are rare, but the two most recent deaths in Louisiana were tied to the use of tap water in “neti pot”s to flush sinuses.

“It’s not worth the risk. It does not cost that much more to boil your water or buy distilled water,” Fornof said.

Experts say only distilled, sterilized, previously boiled water, or properly filtered water.

A gallon of distilled water is usually under $2.

RELATED: Doctor Recommends Nasal Wash For Stopping A Cold?

MORE INFO: CDC Naegleria Frequently Asked Questions

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