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Saline nose spray is a fancy word for a salt water spray! Years ago, many physicians (myself included!) used to provide a “recipe” for parents to make their own salt water nasal mix. Now rows and rows of saline nose spray solutions line store shelves everywhere.
Most people understand the value of saline nose sprays in infants who have trouble breathing. However, after infancy, people tend to use nasal saline only “when symptoms become really bad”. I struggle to understand why symptoms must be really bad. If you know your allergies flare every April or after soccer matches, why not proactively use saline nose spray? A major part of my Ear Nose and Throat (ENT) practice for over 25 years remains dedicated to discussing this issue.
The pink tissue that lines your nose and sinuses, called a mucous membrane, becomes swollen as a reaction to viruses, bacteria, pollen, dust or other allergens. After swelling, the tissue begins to produce additional mucus.
My previous post highlights the amazing benefits of mucus to help our bodies remain healthy. Basically, mucus is a liquid that is made by special cells in several different locations in our bodies, including the respiratory and gastrointestinal tracts. One special type of immunoglobulin forms in these tissues and collects in mucus to help fight infections.
We commonly think that producing mucus means that we are sick. However, we always produce mucous, about one liter every day, but we typically do not notice it. If excess mucus collects in the nose, it often causes swelling and blockage of the ear and sinus drainage areas or leads to other ENT problems.
Many medications treat swelling of the nasal tissues and help dry up the extra nasal mucus. A variety of surgical procedures are available to provide better drainage pathways to prevent mucus build up. Ear tube surgery is one of the most common procedures performed by Pediatric ENT physicians. These tubes are an excellent way to temporarily allow drainage while children either outgrow their anatomy issues or treat the underlying reason for the blockage.
The value of using saline nose spray cannot be emphasized enough as both prevention and treatment of respiratory diseases. There are many reasons that children are prone to get middle ear infections, but most of the reasons start with swelling in the nose. Prior to ear tube placement, I routinely recommend a nasal saline spray to try to reduce the occurrence of ear infections. Understanding the usage of saline nose spray may drastically improve the health of your family and perhaps prevent severe viral infection complications.
Six Salty Secrets of Saline Nose Spray: Why, How, and What it does!
1. Washes away bacteria, viruses, pollen, and pollutants.
For many of my chronic ENT patients, I recommend using saline nose spray each night. Just as we brush our teeth daily to prevent cavities, washing our noses can be a great prevention tool.
The saline removes airborne particles and can markedly improve allergy symptoms and recurrent ear and nose diseases. Most people only need to use the nasal saline when they have an illness; however chronic suffers may wash their noses each night.
2. Lubricates the dry nasal tissues
When mucus becomes dry and hard, the underlying tissues can become irritated and crack. Nasty nosebleeds are a common result of dry irritated tissues. Saline nose spray removes the hardened mucous and adds moisture back into the dry tissues. A moist environment in the nose is very important for the body to fight infection and clear out contaminated mucus.
Dry nasal tissues are frequently treated by placing Vaseline inside the nose; however, you should NOT place vaseline inside the nose or anywhere else inside the body. Vaseline is intended to be used ONLY on the outside of the body, otherwise, life-threatening complications could happen.
3. Burning sensations can be reduced
Some people complain of nasal burning when using the saline nose spray on inflamed tissues. Many times, the burning is due to preservatives added to the commercial brands. Each manufacturer has their own specific recipe, so you might try a few other brands to find one the suits your needs.
There are a large variety of saline dispensers that range from a simple squeeze bottle, a refillable bottle, a pressurized aerosol spray and a netipot. As long as you are getting saline into the nose, then your technique is awesome!
If all brands you try still lead to burning, you may need to add a gel lubricant at night, such as AYR. Or you if you are sensitive to all preservatives, you may need to go old school and make your own!
4. Improves the body’s natural ability to keep the nose clean
Mucus is carried from the front to the back of the nose by tiny hairs called cilia (SILLY-uh). Cilia are one of our first lines of defense to keep the nasal tissues clean and healthy. The cilia beat in a coordinated pattern, sweeping the mucus back to the throat where it is swallowed and neutralized by stomach acid or spit out.
With a virus infection, the cilia are slowed down, and most sinus disease is caused when the cilia stop beating. Salt water has been shown in the lab to increase the speed that the cilia are beating.
5. Warming the nasal saline makes it more effective
Warming the saline nose spray before use adds an additional benefit because the function of the cilia is improved in a warm environment.
This may account for us learning from our grandmothers that we need to have hot tea and chicken noodle soup when we are sick! Warm facial humidifiers are an additional benefit.
6. YES…infants and toddlers can have this done daily.
No one said parenting was easy! Brushing a child’s teeth, putting on clothes and even placing a child in a car seat can be a real work out. Washing the nose is no different.
Very few parents ever tell me that their kids love their nasal washes. So, roll up your sleeves and make it happen. The rewards are worth it.
The Perfect Technique for Using Saline Nose Spray in Kids
I personally started doing nasal saline sprays on a daily basis for my 6-month old after she developed pneumonia. A proper technique is everything because most kids resist.
I found the most reliable and consistent method includes the following steps:
- Place your infant or child on your lap with her back to your chest
- Cross your legs over her flailing legs. This is critical since the legs are powerful and allow the kids to squirm free
- Place one arm across your child’s chest to hold her arms at her sides
- All that is left free is a wiggling neck!
- PRO TIP: Watch your chin because your child will attempt a head-butt.
- Now start those saline washes. Remember, these are washes, so 3-4 squirts is recommended even in infants. 1-2 squirts just make the tissues moist and do not effectively wash out mucus build up.
Not only do I recommend these nasal saline sprays every day in my private practice, but I did them personally for many years in my children. Nasal saline washes do not change the underlying disease but they reduce complications from allergies and viral illnesses.
My final recommendation is to update your home therapy kits to include nasal saline sprays. I coined the phrase Momma Medicine to mean all the home care techniques that we perform before going to the doctor. Our kits usually include Tylenol, Motrin, cough medicine, cold medications, and of course, those glorious bandaids! Bandaids make everything better.
Because runny noses are such a common childhood problem, parents need to be ready to prevent some of the complications by adding saline nose spray, facial humidifiers, and AYR saline gel to their home care kits. Now is the time to up your nasal care game!
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