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Hypertonic vs. Isotonic Nasal Rinses: Which One Should You Choose?


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In the world of nasal rinses, isotonic and hypertonic often face off in competition to see which is better – it’s like West Side Story but for your sinuses. Both rinses have their benefits – they wash away germs and allergens. They flush out pollutants and bacteria. They decrease the symptoms of nasal congestion.

Still, these rinses aren’t exactly the same. So, what’s the difference?

Hypertonic saline nasal rinses

Saline nasal rinses are made of salt; hypertonic solutions have higher concentrations of this salt. Their chemistry makes these solutions better at expelling mucus from the nasal passages, and some people use hypertonic solutions when they’ve already come down with a case of the sniffles.

One of the drawbacks, however, is that hypertonic solutions can burn a bit. It makes sense – if you were to sniff a few grains of Morton’s, you’d probably feel a burn, too. For this reason, hypertonic solutions aren’t recommended for people whose nasal passages are highly inflamed or overly sensitive (at least not without consulting their physician first).

Isotonic saline nasal rinses

Isotonic saline solutions have less salt than their hypertonic counterparts: their salt formula is designed to balance with the body. For people prone to dry noses (and even the bloody noses that dryness can cause), isotonic solutions may be a better choice, because hypertonic solutions can dry the nose out even more).

The drawback, as mentioned above, is that isotonic rinses don’t pull out as much mucus as saltier solutions. But…they are good at rinsing away allergens.

Miscellaneous tips for nasal rinsing

If you’re new to nasal rinsing, it’s good to know a few tricks of the trade. These include:

  • Don’t use tap water (only distilled or sterile water)
  • Avoid rinsing right before bed
  • Use water that is warm, but not hot
  • Don’t share your bottle with others
  • If your nasal congestion worsens, contact a doctor
  • Try both hypertonic and isotonic solutions and see which one works best for you

The actual difference in the salt levels between hypertonic and isotonic is small, but large enough to matter for those who use nasal rinse. A good rule of thumb is to use hypertonic if you’re trying to flush out nasal congestion and use isotonic if you’re trying to restore moisture. If you experience too much burning with the hypertonic solution, isotonic is the better fit.

ResQRinse is a new nasal rinsing system that uses choanal occlusion, a process that eliminates the negative side effects of other devices. ResQRinse also improves effectiveness of both hypertonic and isotonic solutions by delivering the saline rinse directly through the nasal cavity. To learn more about the wonders it can do for your nose, please contact us.