Nasal washes, risk of brain-eating amoeba: how to avoid the danger

From time to time, depending on the time of year, social media returns to promote the practice of nasal washes. This happens especially during flu season and allergy season. A quick and practical way to clear the nasal passages, returning to breathe freely. Not everyone knows, however, that there is potential behind this habit health risk very serious, possibly lethal.

Nasal washes: brain-eating amoeba

It is not enough to pour water into the nose for a true and correct nasal wash. Great attention must be paid to the type of water used, which must be absolutely safe. Acting superficially, based on a social trend seen in passing, could reveal itself the biggest mistake of your life.

The alarm comes from Italian Society of Pediatric Allergy and Immunology (Siaip). Citizens are warned against the risk of contracting primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM). Cause of all this? The amoeba Naegleria fowleri. A name that is anything but easy to remember. Thus, also in order to induce a necessary and justified fear in the public, it began to be defined as amoeba brain eater.

What is brain-eating amoeba and how to protect yourself

When we talk about Naegleria fowleri, we are referring to an amoeba that lives in fresh, warm waters. Think for example of rivers or thermal springs. Practicing nasal washing incorrectly, using “dirty” water, can lead to the risk of allowing this amoeba, which is also capable of reaching the brain, to enter its cavity. That is would cause PAM which, however much it is a very rare infection, cannot be removed from the list of contraindications. Especially because almost always turns out to be lethal.

Usually it is water activities that can pose this danger. Even nasal washes with contaminated water, however, are extremely alarming. A study by the University of Campania Luigi Vanvitelli, coordinated by Michele Miraglia del Giudice, president of Siaip, analyzed cases of PAM in 20 countries. The link between the infection and the use of untreated water for nasal washes it is widely confirmed.

Here are the symptoms of PAM:

  • bad headache;
  • fever;
  • nausea;
  • vomit.

The disease has a devastating progression, leading to coma and, potentially, death within a few days. Only immediate medical intervention can guarantee some chance of survival. However, the chances are low.

The only way to protect yourself is prevention. Experts highlight three fundamental points to take into account:

  • use only safe water for nasal washes. This refers to distilled, boiled, sterilized or properly filtered water. Although chlorinated, tap water may not be sufficient to eliminate the amoeba;
  • the Domestic water tanks need to be cleaned regularly and maintained. In humid and warm environments the amoeba can proliferate easily;
  • is critical inform yourself adequately and learn about risks and preventative measures, so as to protect yourself and your loved ones.