For children with colds or the flu, supplementing medications with a saline solution lessens symptoms and speeds recovery, a new study shows.
Saline therapy has been used for years, but “scientific evidence of its efficacy is rather poor,” say researchers at the Teaching Hospital in Brno, Czech Republic. So they studied 390 children (aged 6-10 years) with colds or flu, randomly assigning them to receive either standard medications alone or medications supplemented with an isotonic saline solution made from modified seawater.
Children in the nasal wash group were treated six times a day while acutely ill and three times a day thereafter. Symptoms were scored on a four-point severity scale, with 1 representing no symptoms and 4 representing maximum intensity.
By their second visit, children in the saline group reported more improvement in their runny noses (mean symptom scores, 1.79 vs. 2.10) and congestion (1.25 vs. 1.58) than children treated with medication alone (Arch Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2008;134:67-74). At eight weeks, those in the saline group had significantly less severe sore throats, coughs, nasal obstructions, and secretions. These children were also much less likely to be using medications. The results were called “robust, consistent, and statistically significant” by the researchers.
Pointing out that children are often prescribed antibiotics to treat colds and flu, the researchers note that saline washes “seem to be an appropriate means to achieve lower antibiotic consumption while reducing URTIs and their complications.”
In addition, children in the saline group reported fewer sick days (31% vs. 75%) and school absences (17% vs. 35%). All results were sustained at the fourth and final visit.