New sinus therapeutics, including baby shampoo sinus irrigation and probiotic sinus rinses, can lessen symptoms and ward off sinus infections, according to doctors at Baylor College of Medicine.

Baby shampoo/Public domain image via wikimedia commons
Baby shampoo/Public domain image via wikimedia commons

“These new therapies are targeting the bacteria in ways that haven’t been utilized in the past,” said Dr. Mas Takashima, director of the Sinus Center at Baylor. “These techniques are helping those with chronic and acute sinusitis. Whenever I tell my patients about the new therapeutic protocols they’re very surprised, but they get the results they want and need.”

He said the concept behind baby shampoo irrigation is cleansing the naval cavity with a surfactant. By doing this, the biofilms, or oily layers that bad bacteria create to protect itself from irrigation, are broken down.

“We tell our children to wash their hands with soap, not with plain water, in order to clean bacteria from their hands. The same concept is being used in the sinuses,” said Takashima, also an associate professor of otolaryngology-head and neck surgery at Baylor.

“Bacteria have learned to adapt to common sinus infection irrigation treatments such as neti pot irrigations and salt water irrigations, which mean that the biofilms don’t get flushed out as easily with traditional techniques,” Takashima said. “Because baby shampoo is a surfactant it is able to break that barrier.”

This irrigation should be a half teaspoon of shampoo in 8 ounces of saline. He said individuals should consult their doctor for further instructions before trying the irrigation at home.

Takashima also is investigating the use of probiotics for treating chronic and acute sinusitis in patients. Many patients are aware of taking probiotics to improve gastrointestinal health after taking antibiotics, he said. Probiotics for the sinuses work in a similar fashion.

Frequently when patients are placed on antibiotics they’re killing good and bad bacteria, and killing the good bacteria means that there is nothing in the nasal cavity to help protect against the buildup of bad bacteria, he said.

“I often encounter previously healthy patients who tell me, ‘I haven’t been able to shake this sinus infection and multiple courses of antibiotics and steroids aren’t helping.’ This tells me that something must have occurred to cause a change in the patient’s natural ability to fight off sinus infections,” Takashima said. “Current research in my field suggests this may be caused by the disruption of the natural bacterial habitat of the sinuses by the antibiotics, which is why more doctors are utilizing probiotics.”

He said probiotics would be extremely helpful in this scenario because it can help replenish the good bacteria, which prevents colonization of the sinuses with pathologic bacteria.