Simple nasal rinse could prevent hospitalization and deaths from COVID-19

Simple nasal rinses with mild salt water can prevent hospitalization and deaths from COVID-19 if applied twice daily after a positive diagnosis, according to research led by US-based Augusta University.

Reducing the amount of virus that enters the body reduces the severity of the disease, says study published in September in the Ear, Nose and Throat Diary. It found that nasal rinses performed within 24 hours of diagnosis can prevent the virus from entering the lungs and potentially causing permanent or fatal harm to patients.

Amy Baxter, corresponding author of the study in the Department of Emergency Medicine at Augusta University, says extra hydration in the sinuses helps them function better. “If you have a contaminant, the more you wash it away, the better able you are to get rid of dirt, viruses and everything else,” she explained.

ACE2 receptors in cells — which bind to the virus’s spike protein resulting in COVID-19 infection — are abundant in the nasal cavity, lungs and mouth, and a saline nasal rinse can help prevent the virus from attaching to receptors tight, they said.

The researchers say nasal rinses are inexpensive and safe and can be administered at home with half a teaspoon of salt and baking soda in a cup of boiled or distilled water.

“In areas far from health care, this simple procedure can reduce the risk of serious illness,” Baxter says.

The study involved comparing data from high-risk COVID-19 patients, such as those with obesity, hypertension, or diabetes, and over the age of 55, who had performed nasal rinses, with datasets of 3 million COVID-19 cases from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The researchers found that only 1.3 percent of COVID-19 patients who underwent nasal lavage required hospitalization, suggesting they were more than eight times less likely to be hospitalized compared to the 11 percent in the CDC dataset.

According to the US-based University of Wisconsin-Madison, for conditions such as acute and chronic sinusitis, the common cold, and allergic rhinitis, nasal irrigation may be recommended for rinsing the nasal cavity. The practice of nasal irrigation likely originated in the Indian Ayurvedic medical tradition called “jala-neti,” according to a paper from the university’s Department of Family Medicine and Community Health.

“Having lived in Thailand, I know that rinsing the nose was a common hygiene practice in Thailand, Vietnam and Laos, where they die in lowercase than in the US,” Baxter said.

Kyle Schwartz, co-author of the study at Edinburgh Napier University, in Scotland, said: SciDev.Net that Southeast Asian countries had “a few cultural practices that could have given them an advantage” when dealing with the COVID-19 outbreak.

“Masking was also relatively normalized even at the start of the pandemic, and local greeting practices included bowing instead of shaking hands,” Schwartz said. “We think what really gave countries like Thailand, Vietnam and Laos an edge compared to other parts of Asia was the widespread use of nasal irrigation.”

Shantanu Panja, an eye, nose, throat and head and neck surgeon at Apollo Multispecialty Hospitals in Kolkata, India, who was not involved in the study, believes the findings “can be easily implemented at no additional cost to the patient.”

“Jala-neti has been part of Indian yoga practices for thousands of years, so it’s nothing new to the Indian subcontinent,” Panja said.

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