If you use a Neti Pot to clear out your sinuses, health officials have a new warning for you: Keep it clean and always use sterile water! That’s because of several recent reports of people dying from infections linked to improper Neti Pot use.

For those who don’t know, a Neti Pot is a nasal “irrigation device” that looks a bit like a gravy boat. They’ve been used for centuries and, when used properly, they’re proven to be a safe way to relieve the congestion associated with the common cold, flu, or allergies. In fact, our friend Dr. Oz recommends them.

So, what’s the problem? It turns out, some people are filling Neti Pots with tap water from the sink instead of the sterile water you’re supposed to use. While tap water is perfectly safe for drinking, it’s not safe for putting in your nose! In fact, infectious disease experts say it’s similar to diving into a swamp full of warm, stagnant water. That’s because your sinuses have a direct path to your brain and if you inhale water containing parasites, you could easily trigger a brain infection that causes fever, nausea, seizures, or even death within days.

In other words: Health experts say only use a Neti Pot if you’re using sterile, previously boiled, or distilled water. Then, rinse out the pot thoroughly when you’re done. Because, as we say all the time, moist environments, like the inside of a Neti Pot, are a perfect breeding ground for bacteria