So now the Internet is telling me that neti pots—the Ayurvedic sinus-irrigation tool that you use to pour water through your nose—can kill you. Can they? Do those things even work?

—Leery in Lents

Regular readers know I regard remedies that profess to transcend science with a jaundiced eye. (Actually, I regard everything with a jaundiced eye—must be time for another liver transplant.)

Anyway, neti pots—unlike ear candling, "quantum healing," and swallowing a long strip of cloth in hopes of flossing your colon— appear to be on the level.

That's assuming, of course, you're not expecting holistic miracles. Using a neti pot to perform what otolaryngologists call a "nasal douche" (keep your Gilbert Gottfried jokes to yourself) won't enable you to see auras, communicate with the spirits of your ancestors, or zap the gluten out of a bran muffin with your mind.

But if all you want to do is wash stuff out of the inside of your nose, then yeah; neti pots work a treat. Many sufferers of chronic sinusitis swear by them.

As to the "painful death" part: Yes, there was an incident in Louisiana last year where a couple of people contracted a parasite by pouring plain tap water through their noses in the course of this therapy.

The parasite, an amoebic flagellate named N. fowleri, is harmless if swallowed. If it gets up your nose, however, it can work its way up your olfactory nerves and into your brain, which it rather unsportingly eats, killing you.

This is exceedingly rare, and one is tempted to suggest that the folks it did happen to were so terminally unlucky that they were probably going to be hit by a bus later that day anyway. But to be on the safe side, use distilled water.

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