Lots of folks rely on the sinus-clearing, nostril-soothing benefits of using a neti pot (an Aladdin’s lamp-like container with a small spout, which you can find at a drug store). In fact, some people like the remedy so much that they use it every day—whether they have a stuffy nose or not.

But all good things must come with a warning, and here’s the latest on this trendy treatment: Don’t use tap water in your neti pot. It turns out that Naegleria fowleri, the so-called “brain-eating” amoeba, could be lurking in ordinary water. Two Louisiana residents died recently after using neti pots with tap water that was infected with the nasty parasite, which enters the body through nasal passages and causes a deadly form of meningitis.

If you’re like most folks who use ordinary tap water in your neti pot, it’s not time to panic. After all, the amoebas are very rare, and have affected only about 35 people in the U.S. since 2000. But there’s no harm in playing it safe, and switching to distilled or boiled water (cooled to body temperature) to rinse out your sinuses.

Here’s how to safely use a neti pot:

1.   Mix approximately ¼ teaspoon of fine table salt into 1 cup of distilled water that’s been warmed to body temperature, or boiled water that’s been cooled.

2.   Lean over a sink and turn your head so your left nostril is lower than your right, keeping your head tilted so your nose is higher than your mouth.

3.   Pour the solution into your right nostril, allowing the water to drain from your left nostril and your mouth.

4.   Gently blow your nose, without plugging either nostril.

5.   Repeat with the other nostril.

Be sure to clean your neti pot after each use with warm water and dishwashing liquid. (Or check with the manufacturer to see if your pot is dishwasher safe.)

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