Objective: To evaluate the potential of nasal isotonic saline application to prevent reappearance of cold and flu in children during the winter.
Design: Prospective, multicenter, parallel-group, open, and randomized comparison.
Setting: Eight pediatric outpatient clinics.
Patients: A total of 401 children (aged 6-10 years) with uncomplicated cold or flu.
Interventions: We randomly assigned patients to 2 treatment groups, one with just standard medication, the other with nasal wash with a modified seawater solution (Physiomer) plus standard medication, and observed them for 12 weeks.
Main outcome measures: The primary efficacy end points were nasal symptoms resolution during acute illness (visits 1 and 2). We also looked for reappearance of cold or flu, consumption of medication, complications, days off school, and reported days of illness during the following weeks when preventive potential was evaluated (visits 3 and 4).
Results: At visit 2, patients in the saline group achieved primary end points (measured on a 4-point numeric scale on which 1 indicated no symptoms and 4, severe symptoms) in the parameters nasal secretion and obstruction (mean scores vs nonsaline group, 1.79 vs 2.10 and 1.25 vs 1.58, respectively) (P < .05 for both). During the prevention phase (at visit 3, 8 weeks after study entry) patients in the saline group showed significantly lower scores in sore throat, cough, nasal obstruction, and secretion (P < .05 for all). By visit 3, significantly fewer children in the saline group were using antipyretics (9% vs 33%), nasal decongestants (5% vs 47%), mucolytics (10% vs 37%), and systemic antiinfectives (6% vs 21%) (P < .05 for all). During the same period children in the saline group also reported significantly fewer illness days (31% vs 75%), school absences (17% vs 35%), and complications (8% vs 32%) (P < .05 for all). Similar results were found at the final visit.
Conclusion: Children in the saline group showed faster resolution of some nasal symptoms during acute illness and less frequent reappearance of rhinitis subsequently.