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August 17, 2011

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Home » Metro » Health and Science

Sniffy response to bureau's index

DOCTORS have told weather forecasters to keep their noses out of medical matters, after the Shanghai Meteorological Bureau issued "a daily index of nasal cleansing."

The nasal index - claimed to be the nation's first - was released by the bureau on Sunday as one of its weather indices.

It advises local residents to rinse their nasal cavities between one and six times a day, depending on air quality, to prevent respiratory diseases.

But ear, nose, and throat (ENT) specialists say the bureau is irresponsible in advising residents to do this without consulting a doctor first and that the practice can be dangerous.

"Daily nasal cleansing is totally unnecessary for most people and we've found no evidence it helps prevent respiratory diseases," said Ge Rongming, an ENT professor with Tongji Hospital.

Ge said the human nose has a natural self-cleaning and immune defense system.

Forced cleansing can damage the nasal environment and weaken the immune system, he added.

Zhang Jiaxiong, director of the ENT department at the Shanghai No.10 People's Hospital, said nasal cleansing - or nasal irrigation - is commonly used to treat people with inflamed sinuses or who have undergone nasal operations.

"For other people, the harm brought by frequent nasal cleansing can outweigh the advantages," said Zhang.

Cleaning the nasal cavities with tap water or antibiotics may lead to bacterial infections, warned the doctors.

"The meteorological bureau should consult with more medical experts before issuing such indices which can misinform residents and damage their health," said Ge.

But officials with the Shanghai Meteorological Bureau said they had consulted local ENT professionals and taken their advice in issuing the index.

Wang Peihua, director of the ENT department at the Shanghai No.9 People's Hospital, supported the index and said research backed the view that nasal cleansing helps prevent respiratory diseases.

Wang said the correct way of cleansing is to put drops of medical saline into the nose repeatedly.

The index also stirred debate online. "In the 28 years I have lived, not once have I performed 'nasal cleansing' but I still feel fine," said a resident surnamed Wang.

"The Shanghai Meteorological Bureau should focus on trying to predict the weather more precisely, instead of creating new indices to be the country's first," said resident Fang Yuan.


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