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Nasal Saline Irrigation “works as well as endoscopic sinus surgery”



From the Post-Gazette

It was once a truth universally acknowledged that children should not be stuffing things up their little noses.

And while that view still holds true generally, shooting large quantities of a saline solution into a child’s nose can work wonders in helping to clear colds and sinus infections.

It’s called high volume nasal saline irrigation, and it’s sold in squeeze bottles at drugstores or big box stores. A patient or a parent holds the rinse bottle up to one nostril and gently squeezes the saline liquid, which will fill that nostril, go around the septum and come out the other side of the nose — flushing out mucus and bacteria along the way.

“I think they’re fantastic,” said Farrel Buchinsky, a pediatric otolaryngologist at Allegheny General Hospital and a professor at Drexel University College of Medicine. “While they might sound gross, from the perspective of getting rid of secretions, bacteria and thick mucus, nothing could be better.”

In his practice, Dr. Buchinsky sees children with chronic rinosinusitis (“They’ve basically been a snot factory for months on end.”), which can go hand in hand with persistent sinus infections.

Traditionally, those sinus infections are treated with antibiotics and even endoscopic sinus surgery. But Dr. Buchinsky believes that a sinus rinse can be just as effective.

“I would advocate for using high volume nasal irrigation in lieu of antibiotics,” he said. “It sometimes works as well as endoscopic sinus surgery.”

High-volume nasal irrigation — as much as 200 milliliters in each nostril — works by first thinning the secretions with saline and then physically flushing them out. Sometimes bacteria can get stuck in the nasal passages, where they “settle down and form a colony of slime,” said Dr. Buchinsky.

The bottles come with saline packets, which are mixed with lukewarm water before each use. Nasal rinsing “won’t necessarily remove every last bacteria but certainly can move the bulk of it out.”

Related: Antibiotics May Reduce Effectiveness of Flu Vaccine