Spraying salty water (saline) into your nose can help reduce the symptoms of pain and congestion that accompany long-term infections of the nasal passages, a Cochrane Systematic Review has concluded.
Between 5% and 15% of people experience persistent infection of the nasal passages (chronic rhinosinusitis). Many homoeopathic and yogic forms of healthcare recommend spraying saline into the nose to relieve symptoms, and it is now often recommended as part of a programme of treatment in conventional medicine.
A team of Cochrane Researchers considered the data presented in eight separate randomised trials and 16 other studies, involving a total of 1659 patients, that examined the potential benefits of saline irrigation.
"While there is no evidence that saline is a replacement for standard therapies, spraying or irrigating saline into the nose is likely to improve symptoms for people with persistent infections," says lead researcher Dr Richard Harvey who works at the University of Oxford and Royal National Throat Nose and Ear Hospital in London.
No one is really sure why saline reduces symptoms, but it could be because it softens mucus, making it easier to remove. The tiny hair-like process (cilia) that cover the surfaces of cells in the nose often fail to function properly and can't beat to remove mucus, so the saline may help these cilia to work more efficiently. In addition, saline may simply help wash bacteria, viruses and allergic materials out of the nose.
"Doctors should consider recommending saline therapy as an adjunct for managing the symptoms of chronic rhinosinusitis," says Harvey.