December 22, 2011

Amoeba Deaths from Neti-Pot Use and How to Minimize Risk

In the past few weeks, there have been numerous stories about the 2nd death in Louisiana from Neti-Pot use leading to an amoeba infection of the brain. The culprit organism Naegleria fowleri causes a life-threatening encephalitis after passing thru the nose and up into the brain where the organism eats neurons for food.

As such, recommendations have been issued to use water as instructed with the Neti-Pot packaging... water should be boiled, distilled, or filtered.

However, before the millions of people who may have elected to simply use tap-water change their daily routine, consider that more commonly, swimming in warm lakes or rivers causes 2-3 amoeba related deaths per year... and swimming in and of itself leads to thousands of drownings per year. So far, there have been only TWO amoeba-related deaths linked with Neti-Pot usage that we know of so far.

In any case, lets talk about boiled, distilled, or filtered water and what a Neti-Pot user can do to keep their daily routine simple. After all, it is so simple to simply fill the container with running tap-water. The additional step to keep things safe can become annoying.

Boiled Water: Naegleria fowleri can not survive in temperatures above 47°C. As such, by boiling water, you guarantee death if any are present in the water. Typically, boil for for 3-5 minutes and cool to lukewarm before storage.

Save time by boiling a large amount of water and storing in 1+ gallon containers for daily use.

Distilled Water: By definition, distillation involves boiling the water and then condensing the steam into a clean container. It's a slow process, but it not only kills any micro-organisms much like simple boiling does, but also removes any inorganic "impurities" that may be harmful like mercury as well as beneficial minerals including calcium, magnesium, and sodium. Distillation does not discriminate.

It is not feasible for most individuals to set up a home water distillation process just so they can use the Neti-Pot. Though can get expensive over the years, save time by purchasing large volumes of distilled water to have at home. But, there are portable water distilling machines you can purchase as well.

Filtered Water: Water that is filtered is cleaned by means of a fine physical barrier, a chemical process or a biological process. In most homes, filtered water is almost universally achieved by a physical barrier. There are numerous vendors out there that sell devices to filter the water including Pur Water and Brita.

Alternative filters should contain pores at least 1 micron in size or smaller.

Save time by purchasing a faucet attachment that automatically filters water into your Neti-Pot when you need it.

Fauquier blog
Fauquier ENT

Dr. Christopher Chang is a private practice otolaryngology, head & neck surgeon specializing in the treatment of problems related to the ear, nose, and throat. Located in Warrenton, VA about 45 minutes west of Washington DC, he also provides inhalant allergy testing/treatment, hearing tests, and dispenses hearing aids.

Banner Map

Pediatric Neck Masses

Adult Neck Mass Workup