There is no cure for the common cold, but researchers might have found a safe and simple way to reduce a child’s symptoms and the chance of recurrence: wash out the nose with seawater.
In a study published Monday in The Archives of Otolaryngology: Head and Neck Surgery, scientists assigned 289 cold or flu patients ages 6 to 10 to be given a nasal wash three times a day with water from the Atlantic Ocean that had been commercially processed but retained seawater’s trace elements and minerals.
As comparison, a group of 101 children used ordinary over-the-counter cough and cold medicines. Their symptoms were tracked over three months.
Patients on the saline treatment used fewer over-the-counter medicines, had fewer breathing problems and other cold symptoms, and reported fewer illnesses and school absences. The differences were statistically highly significant.
The authors acknowledge that the study was not blind and that the results depended in part on self-reporting by patients. The work was financed by Goemar Laboratoires, a French manufacturer of a saline solution based on seawater.
“It makes sense to clean the cavity where the microbes that might worsen the infection are present,” said Dr. Jana Skoupá, a co-author of the study, who works for a company that provides information to the pharmaceutical industry. “That’s what the seawater does, and it’s the minerals and trace elements in the seawater that help to restore the mucus lining of the nose.”
-Seawater Seems to Beat Medicine in Fighting Colds
Results At visit 2, patients in the saline group achieved primary end points (measured on a 4-point numeric scale on which 1 indicated no symptoms and 4, severe symptoms) in the parameters nasal secretion and obstruction (mean scores vs nonsaline group, 1.79 vs 2.10 and 1.25 vs 1.58, respectively) (P < .05 for both). During the prevention phase (at visit 3, 8 weeks after study entry) patients in the saline group showed significantly lower scores in sore throat, cough, nasal obstruction, and secretion (P < .05 for all). By visit 3, significantly fewer children in the saline group were using antipyretics (9% vs 33%), nasal decongestants (5% vs 47%), mucolytics (10% vs 37%), and systemic antiinfectives (6% vs 21%) (P < .05 for all). During the same period children in the saline group also reported significantly fewer illness days (31% vs 75%), school absences (17% vs 35%), and complications (8% vs 32%) (P < .05 for all). Similar results were found at the final visit.