Orange County Health Department warns against sinuses with tap water

Government warns of parasite that can cause brain infection

By Allison McGinley - News Director , Bridgett Ellison - Anchor

ORLANDO, Fla. - The fall allergy season is upon us. Grass and weed pollens are at high levels. For many, that means popping allergy pills or using natural sinus rinses like Neti pots.

But the Center for Disease Control warns flushing out your sinuses could actually let something much more dangerous in.

That something else are microscopic killers. Single celled, brain-infecting amoeba that Doctor Kevin Sherin of the Orange County Health Department says can kill quickly, "Often times the death is rapid and it's almost an untreatable disease."

Health officials alert Floridians each summer when the temperature of our local lakes rises above 80 degrees and create a breeding ground for these dangerous parasites.

But now the CDC and the Orange County Health Department are warning those same organisms could be found in our tap water.

"We have acid in our stomach, gastric acid that kills any of the bacteria, small organisms, including the protozoa which is the amoeba," said Sherin.

So the tap water is safe to drink, but when sprayed or rinsed through the nasal passages the amoeba thrives, possibly causing serious infection.

"The nose gives an open doorway into the brain. If you introduce water into your nose by swimming in the lakes in the summer and getting a snoot full, this is another way to introduce it with the tap water and the Neti pot. It's rare but it can happen," said Sherin.

In the past 10 years, the CDC reports the amoeba has killed 31 people.

Two of those deaths were linked to tap water in Neti pots. To be sure you're flushing your sinuses safely, the CDC and the health department recommend using distilled, sterilized, or filtered water. If you must use tap water, be sure to boil it for at least a minute.

Also be sure to clean the Neti pot between uses to be sure no bacteria remains.
Sherin suggests a better way to handle your stuffy nose and allergies is to use a pre-packaged saline solution spray.

Click here for more information from the centers for disease control.

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