How do you spell relief? N-E-T-I P-O-T. People either love it or hate it… this allergy, cold and sinus treatment is never in the grey area. Many a runny nose and congested sinus has been cured by the small plastic genie-in-a-bottle water spout. For those brave enough to try it, the loyalty runs strong. But recent publicity, however, has shed some negative light on the miracle cold curer. Louisiana state health officials have warned about potential dangers of using tap water for sinus irrigation after two patients died of Naegleria fowleri infection because of this little plastic pot.

The infection is frighteningly known as a “brain eating” amoeba, because it can enter through the nose and cause a brain-tissue destroying condition. Commonly known as a condition contracted from swimming in warm lake waters, news reports sent daunting warnings after a neti pot user died in June this year from the amoeba that was in the tap water that they used for clearing their sinuses. As a result, non-neti-users became scientifically justified in their own resistance to use the irrigating cold symptom cure.

Okay people. The truth is that there is no need for alarm. Keep using your neti pots. According to the Medical News report, “N. fowleri infection is rare in the U.S. — only 32 cases have been documented from 2001 to 2010, according to the CDC website.” Generally when we see cases like this, there is more to the story than there appears to be at first. Often, there is some some type of situation or underlying pre-existing condition that made these people higher risk than the general population.

Still, with over 300 million people in the US, 3 cases per year is 3 too many. You can worry about this amoeba if you start to exhibit symptoms such as a “headache, fever, nausea, vomiting, and stiff neck” immediately or within a week. “Later symptoms include confusion, lack of attention to environment, loss of balance, seizures, hallucinations” and in the worst cases, death.

But don’t let that symptoms list scare you too badly. The reality is that the risk of serious health problems from using neti pots is miniscule. Now because I am a doctor, I have to give you the official mantra of using sterile water and the like. But truth be told, everyone I know who uses a neti pot gets their water from their faucet.

Neti pots are great this time of year to clean out sinuses and also to moisten the nasal passages in the dryness caused by the weather outdoors and heating systems indoors. Bottom line, be prudent and avoid using lake water in your pot. If you have a water filter, use that water instead of the tap water when cleansing your sinuses. Otherwise, I encourage use of the neti pot as a healthy and effective way to knock out those bad colds!