By Kelly Huston, Pharm.D. Student.
Got allergies? Is your child sneezing and/or have a stuffy, itchy, or runny nose? Flushing the nose out with a saltwater solution may provide some relief. Allergies are the body’s response to a substance that causes these symptoms.1 Because germs can contribute to allergy symptoms, flushing the nose could help by removing germs and by increasing the nose lining’s ability to stop germs from entering the body.2,3 Parents are looking for a simple solution to relieve their children’s allergic symptoms. Rinsing the nose out with a saltwater solution may be the answer they are hoping for.
Currently, self-treating allergies in children less than twelve years old is only appropriate if they have been seen by the doctor. However, if the child is twelve years or older, self-care is appropriate without first seeing the doctor. The best way to treat allergy symptoms in children is to avoid the cause of the allergic reaction. If the child cannot avoid the cause of the reaction, a second option to try before using medications is to flush the nose out with a saltwater solution. If medication is necessary, remember that choosing the medicine focused on relieving your child’s main symptom(s) can greatly help.1
An article published in June 2014 entitled, The Effectiveness of Nasal Saline (seawater) Irrigation in Treatment of Allergic Rhinitis in Children, looked at how effective flushing out the nose with a saltwater solution is at reducing allergy symptoms. The study consisted of sixty-one children between the ages of two and fifteen who were diagnosed with allergies. The individuals were randomly placed in three groups to look at how well fluticasone propionate (a steroid-medication used in the nose), nasal rinsing, and a combination of both methods relieved the symptoms of allergies. The study looked at the ability of each of the three treatments to reduce the symptoms of itchy nose, runny nose, blocked nose, and sneezing. The researchers found that flushing the nose out twice a day had no side effects among any of the children, improved all of the children’s symptoms after three months, and was effective when combined with the nasal medication. They discovered that both flushing out the nose and using the nasal medication caused the children’s symptoms to improve more at four, eight, and twelve weeks, compared to each method done individually. Using both methods made it possible to reduce the amount of medication used to treat the allergies. Using a larger amount of the nasal medication can be costly, but flushing the nose out in combination with this medication may lead to a decrease in the cost of treating allergies. These findings reinforce the idea that flushing out the nose with saltwater can effectively relieve the symptoms of allergies. However, this study is limited. A good scientific study will include a group (called the control group) that does not receive any type of treatment in order to see if the treatment that the other group is receiving is really as good as the researchers think it will be. This study did not have a control group. Another limit of the study was that it only looked at one nasal medication and did not look at other medications used to treat allergies.3 Previous studies have looked at the effectiveness of flushing out the nose. In fact, two studies conducted in the years 2000 and 2012 concluded that flushing the nose is effective at reducing allergy symptoms.4,5
Currently, there are several different methods of rinsing out the nose such as a Neti Pot, battery powered pulse water device, bulb syringe, and squeeze bottle. The proper technique of flushing out the nose is important because, if done inappropriately an infection may result.6 This procedure can be done one to two times a day or as needed to relieve symptoms.7 Individuals should wash their hands and make sure the device is dry and clean before following the procedure below. Specific directions may vary between methods, but they generally include:
- Over a sink, learn your head sideways and facedown to avoid getting the solution in your mouth.
- Keep your mouth open, place the spout of the device that is filled with the saltwater solution in the top nostril, so that the liquid comes out the other nostril
- Once finished, blow your nose. Lean your head to the other side and facedown. Then repeat this procedure for the other nostril.6
Mild side effects may include slight stinging. Stop using this treatment and see the doctor if a headache, fever or nosebleed occurs.6 Also, if this treatment does not improve allergy symptoms, the use of a medication may be an option.1 If concerns or questions come up, please speak with a pharmacist or doctor.
Given this information, will you flush out your nose, or a loved-one’s nose with saltwater solution to relieve symptoms in the future?
- Krinsky DL, Berardi RR, Ferreri SP, et al. Handbook of Nonprescription Drugs: An Interactive Approach to Self-Care. 17th ed. Washington, D.C.: American Pharmacists Association; 2012.American Rhinologic Society. Nasal/Sinus Irrigation. http://care.american-rhinologic.org/irrigation Updated August 2012. Accessed October 29, 2014.
- Chen J, Jin L, Li X. The Effectiveness of Nasal Saline Irrigation (seawater) in Treatment of Allergic Rhinitis in Children. International Journal Of Pediatric Otorhinolaryngology [serial online]. July 2014;78(7):1115-1118. Available from: Academic Search Complete, Ipswich, MA. Accessed October 30, 2014.
- Tomooka LT, Murphy C, Davidson TM. Clinical Study and Literature Review of Nasal Irrigation. Laryngoscope, 2000, 110, 7, 1189-1193, John Wiley & Sons. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1097/00005537-200007000-00023/full
- Hermelingmeier K, Weber R, Hellmich M, Heubach C, Mösges R. Nasal irrigation as an adjunctive treatment in allergic rhinitis: a systematic review and meta-analysis. American Journal Of Rhinology & Allergy [serial online]. September 2012;26(5):e119-e125. Available from:
- MEDLINE with Full Text, Ipswich, MA. Accessed October 30, 2014.
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Is Rinsing Your Sinuses Safe? http://www.fda.gov/downloads/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/UCM316649.pdf Published August 2012. Accessed October 27, 2014.
- deShazo R and Kemp S. Patient information: Allergic Rhinitis. UpToDate. http://www.uptodate.com/contents/allergic-rhinitis-seasonal-allergies-beyond-the-basics Updated February 2014. Accessed October 30, 2014.