Saline Rinse May Cut Cold and Flu Symptoms

By Jim Rosenthal, 2/2/2008

Cold medications are out for children. Simple saline rinse could be the answer for quicker recovery from colds and flu.

We have long been advocates for the benefits of saline rinse or sinus irrigation. Rinsing the sinuses with saline solution helps the allergy sufferer by flushing out allergens, reducing inflammation and reactivating the cilia in the sinuses. It is still my all time favorite way of relieving the pain of a sinus headache. Now a new study has found that children who use saline rinse recover quicker from colds and flu.

The study by Czech researchers, to be published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, looked at 401 kids who suffered from cold or flu symptoms. Some of the children received standard cough and cold medication while the others received these same medications plus a saline nasal wash. Investigators observed the participants over 12 weeks to assess the results. Children assigned to the saline nasal wash group used the saline solution six times per day during the first two to three weeks, and three times per day during the rest of the study period.

Researchers found that by the second visit the children using the saline nasal wash had fewer stuffy noses. By the eighth week of the study, these children had significantly less severe sore throats, coughs and nasal congestion than those who used medication alone.

In addition to evaluating how efficient the saline wash was in treating children's colds, researchers also sought to evaluate the potential for the wash to prevent future upper respiratory tract infections. Children who received the saline wash had fewer reported recurrences of illness, lower school absences and less complications overall. Moreover, while 33 percent of the children in the group receiving only standard medication reported using fever reducing drugs, only 9 percent of the saline wash group required these drugs. Similar patterns were seen with other common cold medications with only 5 percent of the saline wash group using decongestants while 47 percent of the medication only group did so. Just 10 percent of the saline wash kids needed mucous dissolving medications while 37 percent of the standard medication group used them. And antibiotic usage showed a similar pattern with just 6 percent of the saline wash group using them while 21 percent of the control group used them.

Just as importantly there were no side effects recorded in the nasal wash group. These benefits were obtained without additional medication.

Given the recent findings on the ineffectiveness of childrens cough and cold medications, it is likely that these improvements in cough and cold symptoms were the result of the saline wash alone. This bodes well for parents who should be concerned about the continued use of these medications. Nasal rinse/nasal irrigation really works, has no side effects and is safe.

The study used an isotonic saline solution refined from sea water. In all probability similar results would be obtained with an normal isotonic (same level of salt as in the body) saline solution.

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