Nasal Saline Rinse May Not Be So Good

Nov 10, 2009
Regular sinus irrigation may seem a good way to relieve runny nose symptoms due to flu or cold, but long-term use of nasal saline rinse may do more harm than good, a new study says.

Dr Talal Nsouli, a professor of pediatrics and allergy/immunology at Georgetown University School of Medicine and the leading author of the study claims that while saline rinses helps to rid the nose of bad mucus, it also flushes away the good mucus, making you even more susceptible to infections.

During the study, 68 people were asked to use saline rinse at least twice a day for a year and then stop these procedures. The participants were followed for the next year after they discontinued using saline wash. The results of the study showed that the percentage of sinus infections dropped by 62 percent after the discontinuation of saline rinse.

"People who were using nasal sinus irrigation were having an average of eight sinus infections a year," said Nsouli. "They dropped to three per year."

The researcher explains that the nose has antimicrobial agents and long term use may expose you to more sinus infection. Nsouli recommends using nasal saline rinse only during cold or flu and not as maintenance of immune system.

Dr Michael J. Bergstein, senior physician at Northern Westchester Hospital Centre, New York says that the nose contains tiny projections called cilia, which has natural protective function in the nose. This immune protection can be shuttered by regular saline rinse.

However, Dr. Jordan S. Josephson, a sinus expert at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City and the author of  Sinus Relief Now disagrees with the author of the study, saying that nasal saline rinse is absolutely good thing to do.

In spite of the fact that during saline rinse the antibacterial agents are washed away, they are easily restored to perform their beneficial activity in the nose, Dr. Jordan S. Josephson says.

Saline rinse was long claimed to be simple and effective way to recover from colds and flu. It helps by relieving sore throat, keeping nasal passages moisturized and loosening dry mucus. The study published in 2008 in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that saline rinse contribute to faster recovery from colds and flu in children. Children, who were using saline wash during cold or flu, had fewer stuffy noses, less severe coughs and sore throats if compared to children, who were given only standard cough and cold medication.

Dr Talal Nsouli says that nasal mucus plays an important role in protection against infections. He recommends to use nasal rinse only when a person is ill, but not on a regular basis.