If you have a child with a cold you may find that his/her symptoms improve with a nasal wash solution made from processed seawater – it may also help prevent respiratory infection from coming back, according to an article published in Archives of Otolaryngology (JAMA/Archives), January issue.

The researchers explain that upper-respiratory tract and sinus infections are common among kids. “Nasal irrigation with isotonic (balanced) saline solutions seems effective in such health conditions and is often used in a variety of indications as an adjunctive treatment. Although saline nasal wash is currently mentioned in several guidelines, scientific evidence of its efficacy is rather poor.”

Ivo Slapak, M.D., Teaching Hospital Brno, Brno, Czech Republic, and team randomly selected 401 children who had a cold/flu into two treatment groups. One group was given standard medication while the other received standard medication plus a nasal wash with a modified processed seawater solution. The children were aged 6-10.

The authors wrote “Patients were observed for a total of 12 weeks, from January to April 2006, during which health status, symptoms and medication use were assessed at four visits over the course of the trial. Acute illness was evaluated during the first two visits (up to three weeks), prevention during the following two visits (up to 12 weeks). The third visit, scheduled for week eight after study entry, could be conducted over the telephone.”

The nasal wash was administered six times per day during the first phase and three times daily during the prevention phase. The children were given three strengths of the nasal solution – jet flow (9 milliliters per nostril), fine spray (3 milliliters per nostril) and a dual eye/nose formula with fine spray (3 millimeters per nostril).

390 children completed the study. The scientists found that the noses of the children in the nasal saline solution group were less stuffy (blocked) and runny. Eight weeks after the study began, during the prevention phase, the children in the saline solution group had substantially fewer sore throats, nasal obstructions/secretions, and coughs compared to the children in the standard treatment group who did not receive the saline solution.

The researchers also found that during the prevention phase fewer of the saline group children were using fever-reducing drugs (9% vs. 33%), nasal decongestants (5% vs. 47%), mucus-dissolving medications (10% vs. 37%) or antibiotics (6% vs. 21%). Those in the saline group also experienced fewer days of illness and complications during the same period.

According to the authors, the nasal wash was well tolerated. They reported that the kids preferred the fine spray formulation (less discomfort). “We did not hear substantial complaints about compliance, and good compliance seemed to be confirmed by the weight of returned empty bottles.”

The authors believe that saline washes may reduce the production of inflammatory compounds; they may also create a better environment for cilia, miniscule hairs in the respiratory system. Cilia sweep away mucus and particles. “It is not clear whether the effect is predominately mechanical, based on clearing mucus, or whether salts and trace elements in seawater solutions play a significant role.”

Archives of Otolaryngology

Written by – Christian Nordqvist