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June 2024
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Study Reveals Salt Water Better than OTC Cold Medications

A Salty Solution to the Common Cold

Salt water The FDA made it official last week and acknowledged what many of us already knew: over-the-counter (OTC) cold medicines are dangerous for young children. Though the FDA has made a lot of boneheaded moves in the past—I suppose it’s only appropriate that we note their smart moves. This is certainly one of them.

However, many parents are now left feeling, wondering what cold medicines are left that they can give to their cold-ridden children.  According to a new study published in the Archives of Otolaryngology, the answer may be floating in the ocean—the Atlantic Ocean, specifically.

The answer appears to be the salt in the ocean water, according to the researchers from Europe who conducted the study.  The 390 children were split into two groups—one receiving a nasal decongestant you’d see at any drug store, the other group given several shots of salt water nasal spray.  Both groups of children were given treatment for six weeks and received check-ups to see if their symptoms were diminishing.  Not only were they diminishing to a more significant degree among the group given the salt water nasal spray, but eight weeks after the study began, the salt water nasal spray group’s symptoms occurred less frequently (fewer sore throats, coughs) and had fewer battles with sickness throughout the year than the group given standard nasal decongestant treatments.

Though it’s not known what specifically it is about the salt water that eased children’s cold symptoms, the researchers speculate it may have something to do with the chemical makeup of the saline in its ability to clear excessive mucous from the nose and throat.

Certainly, more research will be conducted on the efficacy of salt water and the relieving of cold symptoms, but this is yet more evidence of the health benefits nature provides.  What’s wrong with OTC cold medicines?  Besides the fact that some children have died as a result of taking these medicines—a side-effect serious enough to give any doting parent pause, despite its rarity—several studies indicate OTC cold medicines just plain don’t work.

Of course, the dangerousness and inefficiency of OTC cold medicines applies to children under the age of two, but that leaves a large swath of children over that age in the dark.  Does the warning on OTC cold medicines apply to them as well? 

At this point, that answer remains unclear.  Though cold remedies are administered to children billions of times a year and a fraction of that number report any severely adverse reactions, a number of health groups caution against using them because they are so easily overdosed.  For instance, instead of administering the cold medicine with the supplied plastic cup, many use a large spoon instead, resulting in mistaken overdose administrations.

The Food and Drug Administration plans on making a statement about its safety to children over the age of two sometime this spring.  In the meantime, your best bet is to veer away from OTC cold medicines.  Health officials make it clear that because colds are viral, they’re immune from antibiotics.  Thus, the alleviation of colds is best achieved through the traditional method:  plenty of sleep, plenty of rest and plenty of fluids.

And maybe plenty of salt water, too.

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