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Benefits of Saline Solution for Nasal Congestion and Sore Throat

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Salt and home health practices

A number of years ago I met a nurse practitioner who told me some things that made a lot of sense. Over the years I have incorporated her advice into my personal health practices with such great results that I wanted to share the information with you. 

Salt is antibacterial. That’s why it has been utilized for thousands of years as a food preservative.

This fact has also been applied for generations in home remedies that remain familiar to many – for example, gargling with warm salt water when you have a sore throat.

The colder months of Autumn and Winter is the time of year when it is important to try to keep our immune system healthy. If you are experiencing sinus congestion, drippy nose, allergies, or sore throat, salt can be incredibly helpful in allaying all of these symptoms.

Here are a couple of ideas for you to implement on a daily basis as soon as symptoms show up.

Saline nasal spray for cold and flu season

Saline nasal spray – what it is, where to find it

Look for a basic saline nasal spray without any added active ingredients or medications.

The typical drug-store saline nasal spray ingredients are:

  • sodium chloride 0.65% in purified water (USP)
  • sodium phosphate dibasic, disodium phosphate and monosodium phosphate to make it isotonic
  • benzalkonium chloride as a preservative

“Isotonic” means it is compatible with the fluids in the tissues and cells of your body. Most drug-store chains like Walgreens and CVS have a house brand saline nasal spray.

Try to stay away from ingredients like benzyl alcohol. Make sure that it says non-medicated on the bottle.

How do you use the saline nasal spray?

You are not going to do the “squirt and sniff” as I refer to it. Instead, you will do the “Squirt & Blow.” 

Watch the video to see Teri demonstrate the Squirt & Blow technique.

Teri demonstrates the “Squirt & Blow” method for clearing sinuses

This video is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Always consult a qualified healthcare professional about any symptoms.

Step by step directions for Squirt & Blow

  1. Have your tissue(s) ready. 
  2. Hold the opposite nostril closed and tilt your head back.
  3. Then take your saline solution and slowly squeeze it until it reaches the back of the nose, before it goes down the back of your throat. 
  4. Then blow your nose.
  5. Do that twice each side.

Other important notes about Squirt & Blow:

  • If you have active symptoms, have a sinus infection, you are starting to become sick, or the nasal discharge is starting to become thick, green or frothy, you are going to do the Squirt & Blow once every 4 hours.
  • You do not need to wake up in the middle of the night to do this, unless you are already awake because you are extremely congested.
  • If all you are experiencing is the thin watery mucus due to allergy or seasonal changes, I recommend doing it once to twice a day. Preferably in the morning or the evening.
  • If you start to see little red flecks of blood in there it means that you are drying yourself out too much and you need to back off the frequency.
  • After you are done using the nasal spray because your symptoms have gone away, throw it out! It isn’t very expensive. This way you are not going to be transferring any bacteria and grossness from when you were sick to now when you are healthy.

Squirt & Blow vs. Neti Pot – My personal experience

This technique can be a great alternative to the neti pot. Especially because you are irrigating and evacuating, not trying to push water through from one nostril and out the other nostril as with the neti pot.

I was a big fan of the neti pot for many years. However, what I was finding when I used the neti pot, was that it wasn’t all coming out. Throughout the day I would turn my head and water would come gushing out of my nose. Not the most attractive thing. So, you have to start to think “What is that actually doing inside of there, if all that is happening is it is sitting?” Now I use the Squirt & Blow technique instead. No unexpected gushes of water coming out afterwards!

Gargling with salt water for sore throat

The other thing that you can be doing with salt is gargling with salt water.

By gargling with warm salt water once to twice a day you will help with the immune system, and if you have active symptoms it is going to help clear things out.

Gargling with salt water, like oil pulling with coconut oil, eliminates many types of oral bacteria. It is also good for preventing infection, especially after oral procedures, and is used to treat canker sores and other oral concerns. Salt water rinses also have positive effects on respiratory health, great for cold and flu season. 

Directions for preparing and using salt water oral rinse

  1. Use warm water, because warmth is more relieving to a sore throat than cold water. Warm water will also help the salt dissolve into the water more effectively.
  2. Use any type of salt you have available.
  3. Most saltwater rinse recipes call for 8 ounces of warm water and 1 teaspoon of salt. However, if your mouth is tender and the saltwater rinse stings, decrease the salt to a 1/2 teaspoon for the first 1 to 2 days.
  4. Bring water to a boil, then remove from heat, add salt, and stir until the salt dissolves.
  5. Let the saltwater cool to a warm temperature before gargling with it. Once you have finished your rinse, discard the leftover solution.
  6. Don’t just swish it around, actually gargle with it for 15 to 30 seconds.

About the author

Teri Calandra

Teri Calandra Dipl.Acu, MSTOM, L.Ac., LMT, RMT

Teri began her studies in energy medicine as part of her own personal development journey, and continues to to learn and integrate that knowledge into her practice. Teri is the founding practitioner of Calandra Center for Health & Wellness in Schaumburg, Illinois. She is licensed by the State of Illinois in acupuncture (L.Ac.), and board certified through the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM).

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