Study finds sea spray highly effective in treating children’s colds

It’s the kind of thing your parents or grandparents recommended you did when you suffered a cold as a child: to gargle with salt water. But it turns out that recommendation made a lot sense. The latest research – a study in the Czech Republic – has confirmed that plain old sea water can be effective, indeed more effective, than regular medicines in treating children’s colds.

Oh no, not again! Many parents will recognise the first flu symptoms in their kids with a sinking feeling in their hearts. But now, instead of more traditional children’s medicines, they may reach for something different. A new study conducted by the Brno Teaching hospital in the Czech Republic has suggested that sea water, in the form of a nasal spray, can be effective in reducing the symptoms of influenza and the common cold, in other words helping fight stuffy noses. Dr Ivo Šlapák, a specialist at the Brno Teaching Hospital, headed the project:

“The common cold and flu for children is the most common inflammation and the traditional medicine are nasal drops and other products. We want to help children resolve this disease more quickly and be okay. The aim of the study was to evaluate the activity of sea water on the nasal cavity. We wanted to follow the activity, including the recurrence of symptoms.”

Almost 400 children with influenza, between the ages of 6 and 10, were monitored in the study, divided into two groups: half were given nasal sea spray solution, while the rest were given other store-bought medicines. What researchers found was, that children given the spray saw lessened symptoms; basically, less stuffy noses. The children were given the spray six times daily, later reduced to the three times a day to prevent symptoms from recurring. Eight weeks later, those who had used the sea water had fewer sore throats and coughs than those given standard medicine. According to Dr Šlapák, sea water’s usefulness is promising not just for its effectiveness but also for the lack of side effects. Now researchers would like to focus on sea water’s “secret”.

“If you use a medicine it’s already one chemical structure. But sea water is complex, with many chemical parts. The biggest component is saline, of course. We know that this water is very good for healing and hopefully in the future we’ll be able to make investigations into which elements in the sea water are most effective.”

Coming from a landlocked country, Czechs have become more or less famous for spending many of their summers at the seaside – primarily on the Croatian coast. Dr Šlapák agreed wholeheartedly that when it came to seawater, many Czechs have long been used to the benefits. In his view, it’s one reason they come back.

“I think that many parents have experience with holidays on the seacoast in Croatia and it’s very good. It’s why in the winter period many buy sea spray for their children. In short, their experience is very good.”