Salt Water Gargling, Nasal Cleansing Lower COVID Hospitalizations

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Nov. 10, 2023 -- The traditional home remedy of gargling and rinsing your nasal passages with salt water may ease the symptoms of COVID-19 and help keep people out of the hospital, according to a new study.

The results were presented recently at the annual meeting of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology in Anaheim, California. The study hasn’t been published yet in a peer-reviewed medical journal.

Researchers said 55 adults with COVID-19 gargled and rinsed their nasal passages with low or high doses of a saline solution four times a day for 14 days, according to a news release about the study. A low dose used one-third teaspoon of salt, and a high dose was a full teaspoon, both dissolved in eight ounces of warm water.

The results with the participants were compared to a reference group of about 9,300 people who had COVID but hadn’t been told to use the saline solution.

About 19% of people who used the low-dose of saline solution and 21% who used the high-dose solution were hospitalized. The reference group had a 59% hospitalization rate.

“Our goal was to examine saline nasal irrigation and gargling for possible association to improved respiratory symptoms associated with coronavirus infection,” said Jimmy Espinoza, MD, co-author of the study. “We found that both saline regimens appear to be associated with lower hospitalization rates compared to controls in SARS-CoV-2 infections. We hope more studies can be done to further investigate the association.”

Experts not involved with the study warned that the saline treatment should not replace COVID vaccines, according to The Washington Post. The experts also noted that the lack of a placebo control group limits the conclusions that can be drawn.

“I don’t think the current evidence is strong enough to recommend it for infection,” Matthew Rank, chair of allergy, asthma and clinical immunology at the Mayo Clinic in Arizona, told The Post. “Although patients could choose to do this, as the harm is likely low in trying it.”