Dept of Unworkable Solutions: Nasal Flushing

Rebecca Goldin, Ph.D and Jenna Krall

A study published in the Archives of Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery recommends pinning children down six times a day to spray saline up their noses. According to the Washington Post, this

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

But for those doing the math, that “little downside” adds up to approximately one tantrum every two and a half hours. The Post mentions that the spray might lose effectiveness because “compliance […] may become an issue,” but neglects to question the change in quality of life. Though kindergarten teachers everywhere may be praying for a product that makes kids less germy, in the world of children, sniffling trumps six daily nasal washes.

The study suggests that after eight weeks of saline treatment, kids had fewer fevers, fewer missed days at school, and used less medication than those who didn’t rinse their noses. With the controversy surrounding children and over-the-counter cold medications, it seems like a long-awaited miracle treatment.

But the study may have been particularly laden with sick kids – after eight weeks, a full third of those not on the saline rinse were still on fever reducers, and 47 percent were still on nasal decongestants (compared to nine percent and five percent, respectively, of those on saline). Doctors might worry about the general health of any child with an eight-week-long cold.

The main result of the study may well be that we’re less sick if we keep our noses clean. But can we really imagine a world in which nasal flushing becomes as prevalent as hand-washing?

2 Responses to Dept of Unworkable Solutions: Nasal Flushing

  1. Rimfax says:

    When my toddler son has a cold, we do do a nasal flush before bedtime. It is a traumatic experience every time, but it is less traumatic than him waking every 2 hours, which is what happens when we don’t do it. When his is particularly ill, my wife may do a second nasal flush at midday, before a nap. Once a day is too many times if there’s no prevalent reason, six times a day sounds abusive.

    Note: Up until he was two or so, my wife used breast milk instead of saline. He tolerated it better and the results were better than the few times we used saline. Now, we use the same water that we prepare for our own neti pots: 7 tsp. canning salt, 1 tsp. baking soda, 1 gal. distilled water.

    Nasal flushing is helpful for adults and children, but excessive flushing can be counterproductive, especially for children.

  2. Pine says:

    Car seat cause a lot of emotional fits too. It’s easy to want all the benefits without any down sides. This is the problem with the wimping of society down to poor weaklings who want everything fast, cheap and easy…

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