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Saline Nasal Wash Helps Kids Fight Colds, Flu

Led to fewer respiratory problems, reduced reliance on cold medications, study says

MONDAY, Jan. 21 (HealthDay News) -- Rinsing with a special saline nasal wash made from Atlantic seawater improves symptoms in children with colds and flu, and may prevent recurrence of these infections, a new study claims.

"We brush our teeth every day, however, we do not pay attention to our noses -- a potential gate for infection," said study co-author Dr. Jana Skoupa, of Pharma Projects in Prague, Czech Republic. "Nasal wash should be used, based on our findings, immediately."

The study seems to confirm what many doctors already know.

"We have recommended this for years. This study gives some objective evidence," said Dr. Jonathan Field, emeritus director of the pediatric allergy and asthma clinic at New York University/Bellevue Medical Center in New York City.

An alternative to the many cough and cold medications that line drugstore shelves comes not a moment too soon.

Just last week, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued an advisory stating that over-the-counter cough and cold medicines should not be given to infants and children under the age of 2. The agency has not come to a final decision on the use of such products in children aged 2 to 11.

"This is very promising, but there need to be more studies to confirm what the authors have found," Dr. Tom DeWitt, director of general pediatrics at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center. "It is a suggestion that it may be an alternative to cold preparations that the FDA [recently issued a public health advisory about]."

The saline technique could provide a more holistic alternative to such over-the-counter medications, and has the added advantage of having little downside and not contributing to the growing problem of antibiotic resistance.

The study, published in the January issue of the Archives of Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery, involved about 400 children aged 6 to 10 with colds or the flu. The children were randomly assigned to receive either standard medication plus the nasal wash, or standard medication alone.

The nasal wash formula was given six times a day for eight weeks, then three times a day for the next four weeks.

By the second visit, patients receiving the nasal wash had less stuffy and runny noses. By eight weeks, those in this group had less severe sore throats, coughs, nasal obstructions and secretions.

Also, after week eight, only 9 percent of children in the saline group were using fever-reducing drugs, compared with 33 percent in the control group; only 5 percent were using decongestants, versus 47 percent in the control group; and only 6 percent of saline recipients were using antibiotics, compared with 21 percent in the control group. Children using the nasal wash also had shorter illnesses and fewer missed school days.

Compliance, however, may become an issue outside the context of a clinical study. "They did it six times a day," DeWitt pointed out. "How many parents are going to do that six times a day?"

The trial was funded by French company Goemar Laboratoires, which makes the product, Physiomer, that used in the study.

"As far as I know, Physiomer is not available in the U.S. It is the leading brand in Europe," Skoupa said. "The manufacturing process uses electro-dialysis (not simple dilution of seawater) to achieve isotonicity. This results in preserving the majority of minerals and trace elements in similar concentrations to seawater from the Atlantic Ocean."

An isotonic solution has the same concentration of salt as the human body.

"I would not just simply expect a normal saline solution to be the same thing," DeWitt said.

More information

The Medical College of Wisconsin has more on respiratory infections in children.

SOURCES: Jana Skoupa, M.D., Pharma Projects, Prague, Czech Republic; Jonathan Field, M.D., emeritus director, pediatric allergy and asthma clinic, New York University/Bellevue Medical Center, New York City; Tom DeWitt, M.D., director, general pediatrics, Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center; January 2008 Archives of Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery

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