Rinse Your Sinuses With Shampoo Or Probiotics?

Doctors at Baylor College of Medicine say patients with persistent, chronic infections can benefit from boosting the standard saline nasal rinse.


white generic saline bottle
Image credit: Free Images

If you suffer from allergies and sinus infections, you may have tried nasal irrigation, which involves flushing out the nose and sinuses with salt water. It’s a cheap and effective home treatment. Now doctors at Baylor College of Medicine are tweaking the recipe, saying some patients can benefit from adding baby shampoo or even probiotics to the nasal rinse.

When it comes to the baby shampoo, Dr. Mas Takashima says you only mix in a tiny little bit, a half teaspoon per eight ounces of saline solution.

“Some of my patients are concerned, (asking) ‘Am I going to be blowing bubbles out of my nose?’ And I tell my patients if that’s occurring, you’re definitely using too much baby shampoo,” Takashima says.

Takashima likens it to washing your hands. You can get some dirt and bacteria off with water alone, but if you use soap you can take off even more. He recommends baby shampoo because it’s non-irritating and easy to find.

Takashima prescribes this additive only for certain patients whose sinus infections have been stubborn and persistent for months, and for whom other medications have failed.  

Image credit: Baylor College of Medicine

He’s also conducting trials in which certain patients are dissolving a capsule of powder in their nasal rinse solution. The powder contains beneficial bacteria that may have been wiped out by taking too many oral antibiotics or steroids. 

“They’re replenishing the natural bacteria that are supposed to be in those sinuses,” Takashima says. “And this natural bacteria help prevent pathological bacteria from setting in and causing recurring sinus infections.”

Takashima says they’re good evidence in his field about the benefits of using the baby shampoo, but not many published studies about the probiotics — so he’s started his own clinical trials and says he has gotten good results so far. He’s applying for a grant to support the research from the American Academy of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery.

But again, these tweaks are for certain sinus patients only, and Takashima says if you’re interested you should consult your doctor first.

But for allergy sufferers everywhere, he does recommend straightforward saline irrigation.

“The nose is a filter, it’s a filter for the lungs, and so you really want to keep that filter clean and so the nasal saline irrigation really does that.”


Saline Irrigation Formula


  • Salt-containing no iodide or preservatives (these can be irritating)
  • Baking soda
  • 8 ounces (1 cup) of distilled or boiled water


  • Mix 3 heaping teaspoons of salt with 1 rounded teaspoon of baking soda and store in a small Ziplock bag.
  • Add 1 teaspoon of the mixture to 8 ounces (1 cup) of lukewarm distilled or boiled water. Use less to make a less concentrated salt solution if burning or stinging is experienced.


Using a soft rubber ear bulb syringe, infant nasal bulb or a commercial nasal saline rinse bottle from your drug store, use the rinse by following these steps:

  • Draw up 8 oounces of the saline solution. Tilt your head downward over a sink (or in the shower) and rotate to the left. Squeeze half of the solution gently into the right (top) nostril. Breathe through your mouth. In a few seconds the solution should come out through your left nostril. Repeat the process on the other side.
  • Blow your nose very gently to prevent the solution from going into your ear and causing discomfort. If water goes into your ears, it is ok. The discomfort should resolve in a short time.
  • If you are using other nasal medications, be sure you do not use it right before irrigating your sinuses — it will rinse the medication out. Use other nasal medication at least 30 minutes after irrigating.

As with any medical product, be sure to speak to your doctor about using sinus rinses and stop using if you experience pain, nosebleeds or other problems.


This formula was provided by Baylor College of Medicine Sinus Center. It was originally posted in Baylor College of Medicine’s Momentum Blog in the article Make your own saline rinse: Combat sinus infections, written by Dr. Mas Takashima, associate professor at Baylor College of Medicine. 




Subscribe to Today in Houston

Fill out the form below to subscribe our new daily editorial newsletter from the HPM Newsroom.

* required