Common Cold Symptoms Not Washed Away by Nose Irrigation

Mar 17, 2010 By Becky Ham

Washing out your nose with a spray or spout of salt water is safe and might even get you back to work sooner after a cold or acute sinus infection. However, there is not enough evidence to show that it can reduce your symptoms significantly, according to a new research review.

The three studies in the review included small numbers of patients and varied widely in their details, “which means small beneficial effects may be missed,” said lead author David King, M.D., of the University of Queensland, in Australia.

One study found that people were more likely to return to work sooner after using the nose washes, and there was some intriguing evidence that nasal washes might reduce among those who seek the saltwater treatment.

“Nasal irrigation with saline is a safe treatment that may be mildly beneficial to some patients, though the existing evidence is too limited to recommend it as a standard treatment,” King said.

“It is quite amazing that such a common treatment for a very common illness does not have a large body of evidence to support for or against its use,” he added.

The review appears in the current issue of The Cochrane Library, a publication of The Cochrane Collaboration, an international organization that evaluates research in all aspects of health care. Systematic reviews draw evidence-based conclusions about medical practice after considering both the content and quality of existing trials on a topic.

Saltwater washes have long been a part of ayurvedic care, a traditional medicine used on the Indian subcontinent. Now saline sprays and nose “irrigators” like the neti pot ? a small spouted pot used to pour water through the nostrils ? have been showing up more often in Western culture, appearing everywhere from “Oprah” to the Mayo Clinic.

Saline nasal washes could flush out excessive mucus and infectious material, and might strengthen the nose’s own filtration system of waving, hair-like cilia, some studies have suggested.

If saline washes work, said the Cochrane reviewers, they could reduce the amount of decongestants, painkillers and improperly prescribed antibiotics used to treat upper respiratory tract infections, while reducing downtime from these illnesses.

“The economic impact of the alone on workplace absenteeism is estimated to be billions of dollars,” they said.

The studies reviewed by the Cochrane team included 618 participants in the United States and Czech Republic, including children and babies. Many of the participants complained that the nasal wash felt uncomfortable, but the researchers did not find any serious adverse effects in the studies.

Other studies have shown that people with chronic sinus symptoms, and perhaps some allergy sufferers, might be able to prevent flare-ups with regular saline washes, according to David Rabago, M.D., an assistant professor of family medicine at the University of Wisconsin., who had provided feedback on the review draft to the authors.

Some key information about nasal irrigation is still missing, he said: What is the best way to wash?

“No head-to-head comparisons have been made of volume, salinity, temperature, pH or delivery vehicle — do you use a squeeze bottle or a neti pot, for example?” Rabago said.

He said most washes, which use lukewarm water and a 0.9 percent to 3 percent saline solution, “are able to do something good.”

Explore further: The high cost of hot flashes: Millions in lost wages preventable

More information: Kassel JC, King D, Spurling GKP. (2009) Saline nasal irrigation for acute upper respiratory tract infections. The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2010, Issue 3.

Related Stories

Saline nasal wash helps improve children's cold symptoms

Jan 21, 2008

A saline nasal wash solution made from processed seawater appears to improve nasal symptoms and may help prevent the recurrence of respiratory infections when used by children with the common cold, according to a report in ...

Recommended for you

Tracking spending among the commercially insured

6 hours ago

Recent growth in health care spending for commercially insured individuals is due primarily to increases in prices for medical services, rather than increased use, according to a new study led by researchers at The Dartmouth ...

Taking aim at added sugars to improve Americans' health

10 hours ago

Now that health advocates' campaigns against trans-fats have largely succeeded in sidelining the use of the additive, they're taking aim at sugar for its potential contributions to Americans' health conditions. But scientists ...

User comments : 2

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

AeonInfinitus
not rated yet Mar 17, 2010
I don't now about shortening the duration of a cold, but it definitely does help alleviate some of the misery and congestion when sick. It seems to me that it also helps reduce the severity of the symptoms settling in the sinuses.

I believe it's also believed to help prevent colds by helping rinse out contaminants and viruses before they take hold.
KBK
1 / 5 (1) Mar 18, 2010
The body prefers a low pH when fighting infection, or, to fight infection with/by. The low pH causes the cell walls of the micro invader to burst. there is no defense against this, the invader dies a death that cannot be combated by learning a way around any antibiotic, and it does not depend upon the body using it's own 'low pH acids' that is uses for defense, the application of low pH is DIRECT.

To help the body, there are some fundamentals that must be changed. Our modern diet is FAR, FAR too acidic and if you want to be healthy- CHANGE IT.

Make sense now?

MMS (Jim Humble) (a simple pH shifter to help the body create and utilize the acids that burst the cell walls of the invaders) works incredibly well. I've used it often myself.