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Research from Italy's University of Milan has confirmed that nasal irrigation with a saline solution with more salt content significantly lessens allergy symptoms and the need for medications.
The research was conducted on 220 children with allergic rhinitis to grass pollen – commonly known as hayfever - who were between five and nine years old. The children were randomized into three groups. One group of 80 children was given nasal irrigation twice a day using a normal saline solution. Another group of 80 children was administered nasal irrigation twice a day using a hypertonic saline solution (containing more salt). The last group of 60 children was given no nasal irrigation.
The doctors examined the children, and nasal symptoms such as sneezing, blocked nose, stuffy nose and itchy nose were all measured among the children before and after four weeks of the nasal irrigation treatment. They also measured the children's nasal tissue swelling and swelling of the adenoid lymph glands, as well as ear infections before and after the treatment period.
The nasal irrigation given to the children was administered using disposable 20-milliliter liquid syringes.
After four weeks of nasal irrigation, the group of allergic children given the hypertonic saline solution had significantly fewer symptoms of allergies than the other two groups. The reductions included all of the measured symptoms. The group administered the normal saline irrigation also had fewer symptoms than the control (no treatment) group, but these reduced symptoms were restricted to the symptoms of blocked nose and sneezing among the children.
The hypertonic saline nasal irrigation group also required fewer oral antihistamines than the other groups.
There were also no adverse side effects of the nasal irrigation in both groups. This is a significant finding when considering there were 160 children in the treatment group. Most pharmaceutical trials testing children find numerous adverse side effects, because children are often more sensitive in general.
Normal saline solution is typically about 0.9% salt (sodium chloride) content. A hypertonic saline solution is typically about 3% salt content. In this study, the researchers used a 2.7% sodium chloride saline solution as their hypertonic saline solution. This level is considered hypertonic because it has greater sodium chloride content than our bloodstream has.
This greater sodium chloride content works to draw mucous out of the nasal cavity. Hay fever is often accompanied by – and related to – inflammation within the nasal cavities and stagnation in the mucous membranes' ability to cleanse the region of allergens and toxins.
Nasal irrigation is not the same as nasal lavage - an ancient Ayurvedic method of cleansing the nasal tissues and drawing out toxins.
- Marchisio P, Varricchio A, Baggi E, Bianchini S, Capasso ME, Torretta S, Capaccio P, Gasparini C, Patria F, Esposito S, Principi N. Hypertonic saline is more effective than normal saline in seasonal allergic rhinitis in children. Int J Immunopathol Pharmacol. 2012 Jul-Sep;25(3):721-30.
- Adams C. Hay Fever and Allergies: Discovering the Real Culprits and Natural Solutions for Reversing Allergic Rhinitis. Logical Bks, 2012.