Battle of the Nasal Washes

But doctors urge caution when using syringes because they can spray water with force. And if water does not drain out through the nostrils, it drains through the throat.

"I worry that people would be too vigorous," said Dr. Roberta Lee, medical director at the Continuum Center for Health and Healing at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York. "People don't realize how delicate the tissues up there are."

To protect those tissues a little and remove some of the sting of the salt water, Haddon recommends adding a pinch of baking powder, as Curhan does, to lower the pH and buffer the solution.

Technique #2: Squeeze Bottle

Kellie Gentry, 28, relies on a nasal rinse with a squeeze bottle to keep her sinuses clear, and it is a proven method.

"It gets to the sinuses as well as you're going to get," said Levy of the Osher Clinical Center. "To me the gut feeling is I'm now draining better. I feel less irritated."

Watch a video demonstrating nasal irrigation using a squeeze bottle.

Rinsing with squeeze bottles is a fast, cheap and easy way to clear nasal passages and reduce the effects of a cold or an allergy as well as the need for medications. Packs like Gentry's, complete with prepared salt mixes, are available at almost any drugstore or supermarket.

And squeeze bottles are another form of positive pressure irrigation. The Laryngoscope study found that positive pressure irrigation is particularly effective at clearing the drainage areas for the ethmoid sinus regions by the bridge of the nose and the maxillary sinus regions on either side of the nose.

Negative pressure irrigation -- water sniffed up from a cupped hand -- was comparable to positive irrigation, according to the study, although it did not distribute the solution as evenly.

But saline nasal rinses can be uncomfortable unless you get the technique down.

Dr. Sezelle Gereau Haddon, assistant professor and clinical instructor of pediatric otolaryngology at Children's Hospital of New York, recommends a technique for using squeeze bottles that involves bending forward and panting "like a puppy" to keep the palate elevated and close off the back of the nose so the rinse water does not flow down the throat.

"All this gunk kind of comes out your nose," which clears out the area where many of the major sinus cavities drain, said Haddon.

And for those who are still wary of shooting water into the nose, Levy has some reassuring words:

"Water is not going to go into the brain, even if you try."

Technique #3: Neti Pot

Carrie Erwin, 26, tapped into a less modern but still effective technique to clear her nose.

Watch a video demonstrating nasal irrigation using a neti pot.

Though neti pots were not included in the 2002 study, they have long been used to manage sinus problems. Neti pots originated in Southeast Asia as an Ayurvedic cleansing technique. Traditional pots look like ceramic Aladdin lamps, squat with long, slender spouts that get pushed into the nostrils.

Tilting the head allows the water to flow into one nostril, travel up behind the nose into the nasopharynx and flow out the other nostril. Water that does not drain through the nose can be spit out through the mouth.

Irrigating with neti pots falls somewhere between positive and negative irrigation, Lee said, as a more passive way to cleanse the nasal passages.

But some may not find the "pouring" sensation combined with tilting the head comforting.

"Patients often feel like they're drowning," Haddon said.

The drowning sensation could be a matter of technique, but Haddon said that it was impossible to get her patients to comply with using it.

Still, there are reasons to try irrigating with neti pots if other methods do not work well.

"They're gentle, they're not under pressure," Lee said. "Simpler is better."

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Spring allergy season is here! Visit the ABCNews.com OnCall+ Allergy Center to get all your questions answered about pollen, allergic rhinits, sinusitis and more.

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