Seawater spray reduces cold symptoms in kids

Czech researchers ran a test on 390 kids with cold or flu-like symptoms, giving them a nasal spray made from seawater. It reduced their cold symptoms and helped prevent relapses. It sounds good, but it must be noted that the study was paid for by a French company that sells a seawater nasal spray.
It may be that the salt water has a simple mechanical effect of clearing mucus, or it could be that trace elements in the water play some more significant role, though the exact reason why such a solution works is not known, said Dr. Ivo Slapak and colleagues at the Teaching Hospital of Brno in the Czech Republic.

The study, published in the January issue of the Archives of Otolaryngology, was paid for by Goemar Laboratoires La Madeleine, Saint-Malo, France, which makes Physiomer, the seawater nasal spray used in the investigation.

Link (Via TDG)


  1. I like this study, while i too view companies that sponsor their own research with a skeptical eye. This sounds a whole lot like a sinus flush, yes only a little spray, but a good start. The sinuses are dark and moist bug factories. There is plenty of anicdotal as well as good research that says a netti pot sinus flush with some sea salt in it will shorten the duration of a cold. Maybe sea salt has some bug squashing, or at least bug hindering properties. You keep things from being spoiled by bacteria by salting them. I like anything that has potential benifits with little or no side effects.

  2. Anecdotal post, feel free to stop reading now.

    Every time I feel a cold coming on and conditions permit, I go for a long surf. Inevitably, my sinuses get a cold salty flushing (aren’t you glad you didn’t stop reading after all?). I try and stay in the water as long as stamina allows, then have a hearty bowl of soup and early bed. It never fails to knock out a cold quickly, within a day or so.

    I am a firm believer based solely upon my own experience, and that should be good enough for you…

  3. People have been using homemade saline spray for decades. It soothes dry, irritated tissues. If it maintains tissue in a healthier state, it’s harder for infections to get a foothold. e.g. allergy sufferers are more prone to upper respiratory infections because there’s chronic irritation from their allergies. It’s not exactly a miracle cure. More like putting moisturizer on dry skin.

  4. It’s not surprising that it works, doctors prescribe saline spray all the time. (I find it very helpful myself.)

    The interesting question would be if seawater works any better than ordinary saline, which I doubt.

  5. Well, great–now we have to go hat in hand to Uncle Pierre every time we get the sniffles. Curse our shortsightedness in letting the French corner the lucrative seawater market!

  6. The thing, that seawater is just dirty saline solution. A quick google search has turned up the study here.

    It is very badly designed. The two groups consist of medication, and medication plus the spray. There is no control here for placebo effect. There’s really no news here at all.

  7. Hell-o, neti pot!

    Just use saline. The real trick with kids is to get them to put anything (besides beans, beads and pennies) up their nose.

  8. Nothing new here. The French and other Europeans have been using salty-water-up-the-nose to treat colds for ages. Very common.

  9. I don’t think there’s anything magical about sea-water specifically. Sea salt is still sodium chloride, unless the manufacturer has left all the dirt in it, at which point it’s polluted sodium chloride. I’m sure there’s all sorts of trace minerals, but there’s also trace fertilizers and trace pesticides and probably other nasty stuff.

    I’ll keep my saline flushing.

    Incidentally, saline flushing does not moisturize the sinuses – it dries them out, just as soaking your hands in salt water doesn’t moisturize them it dries them out. If you’re getting nose bleeds from dry winter air, saline is just going to aggravate it.

    However, it does generally help with sinusitis, if only through mechanical action (I suspect the salt just acts as a mild bacterial and fungal inhibitor – chlorine would probably work too but it smells funny).

    Considering that when my sinusitis is really bad, I consider the crude mechanical action of stuffing a power drill up my nose to clear things out, the salt water is probably a better solution :D

  10. Heard a bit about the saltwater treatment on my NPR affiliate’s (local?) show, Sound Medicine, last weekend. Apparently, the reason saltwater is so soothing is because it more closely matches the pH of one’s mucous than plain water. The MD interviewed suggested using one of those rubber bulbs (y’know, the ones used to suck snot out of baby noses) to shoot the solution up your nose and let the fluid rush out. This especially effective for sinusitis (bacteria trapped in sinuses) because it helps flush out the “infestation”. One can mix in a bit of baking soda to the solution for even more ultra-soothing power-action.

    Maybe later I’ll have the strength to google neti pot. In the mean time, I’ll conclude by saying that I inherently distrust “findings” touted by companies to “prove” the effectiveness of their crap when their sticky fingerprints all over the study muck up the legibility of its scientific impartiality.

  11. In the realm of anecdote also:

    I consider flushing my nostrils and sinuses with water to be a part of washing my face: after getting my hands clean, I shnork plain tap water into each nostril and blow it out. Saline would probably work better, but this works excellently, so…

    Maintenance is better than cure. I started doing this, by the way, when I ran into it while reading up on Muslim prayer practices… never know what you’re going to find.

  12. There’s a few brands of “kits” on the market that consist of a specially-designed squirt bottle and a few hundred packs of salt and baking soda, to make your own saline. Works like a champ.

  13. My grandfather swore on the benefits of a sea water rinse when he was coming down with a cold. He lived in South Florida, a little easier for him than me here in Settle, but there is that product called Ocean that works OK for me.

  14. Hypertonic saline has been used to treat Cystic Fibrosis, a genetic disease that results in excess mucus production, which can have some devastating effects. It was researched after Australian surfers with CF were found to fair better than their non-surfing counterparts. It is delivered as a mist and inhaled into the lungs, and helps to clear the mucus, which is often a result of infection.

  15. I’ve been using saline spray since I was a kid. It just so happens that the brand name is Ocean Spray. Not to be confused with the cranberry juice.

  16. sea water usually has a lot of contaminants and maybe bacteria in it doesn’t it?

    oh, and by the way, these guys are obviously selling something…

  17. They don’t know how it works? That’s the bit that amazes me.

    Back in the 1970s my microbiology professor taught us that saline (salt solution) destroys bacteria through its osmotic effect. What that means is that when a solution is stronger on one side of a semi-permeable membrane than on the other, liquid diffuses through to balance the two sides. A cell can burst through influx of too much liquid, or dehydrate, due to osmotic pressure.

    There are plenty of proprietary saline nasal sprays, in use for decades. This treatment goes back a long way. It is one of those old wives tales that actually works. Buffered saline is less irritating than plain salt water.

  18. We’ve been using it for years. It works. No question.Now…I wonder where I put the opium tincture ?

  19. People throughout history, not that I was always there, have gone, if they were wealthy enough, to the seaside resorts for their health’s sake. And for the un_rich who lived near the sea anyhow… good luck to ’em all.

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