Nasal irrigation: From empiricism to evidence-based medicine. A review

Eur Ann Otorhinolaryngol Head Neck Dis. 2015 Nov;132(5):281-5. doi: 10.1016/j.anorl.2015.08.001. Epub 2015 Sep 3.


Nasal irrigation plays a non-negligible role in the treatment of numerous sinonasal pathologies and postoperative care. There is, however, a wide variety of protocols. The present review of the evidence-based literature sought objective arguments for optimization and efficacy. It emerged that large-volume low-pressure nasal douche optimizes the distribution and cleansing power of the irrigation solution in the nasal cavity. Ionic composition and pH also influence mucociliary clearance and epithelium trophicity. Seawater is less rich in sodium ions and richer in bicarbonates, potassium, calcium and magnesium than is isotonic normal saline, while alkaline pH and elevated calcium concentration optimized ciliary motility in vitro. Bicarbonates reduce secretion viscosity. Potassium and magnesium promote healing and limit local inflammation. These results show that the efficacy of nasal irrigation is multifactorial. Large-volume low-pressure nasal irrigation using undiluted seawater seems, in the present state of knowledge, to be the most effective protocol.

Keywords: Nasal irrigation; Saline solution; Seawater.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Isotonic Solutions / chemistry
  • Mucociliary Clearance
  • Nasal Lavage*
  • Postoperative Care
  • Rhinitis / therapy
  • Seawater / chemistry
  • Sinusitis / therapy
  • Sodium Chloride / chemistry


  • Isotonic Solutions
  • Sodium Chloride