Simple saltwater solution may reduce early symptoms of virus

A simple saltwater solution could help reduce early symptoms and the progression of coronavirus, new research has suggested.
Simple saltwater solution may reduce early symptoms and progression of virus.

 Neil Hanna PhotographySimple saltwater solution may reduce early symptoms and progression of virus.

 Neil Hanna Photography
Simple saltwater solution may reduce early symptoms and progression of virus. Neil Hanna Photography

Scientists at the University of Edinburgh believe sea salt could boost the antiviral defence of cells that kicks in when you are affected by a cold.

This new study builds on a trial, published in 2019, designed to identify a low cost and easily accessible intervention against the common cold.

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It found that participants who gargled and cleared their nose with a salt water solution reported fewer coughs and less congestion.

Gargling also cut the length of their cold by almost two days.

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Researchers at the University of Edinburgh say the sea salt may work by boosting cells’ antiviral defence that kicks in when they are affected by a cold.

The team has re-examined the data and discovered the same benefits were also experienced by those participants who were infected with one of the four common coronaviruses known to cause colds.

Researchers now aim to investigate whether the same solution will benefit those who are experiencing symptoms of the new strain of coronavirus, which causes Covid-19.

The study is recruiting adults in Scotland with Covid-19 symptoms or a confirmed case of Covid-19.

Those who join the trial will be asked to follow government advice on hygiene and self-isolation, with one group asked to gargle and clear their nose with salt water.

The study is funded by BREATHE – the Health Data Research Hub for Respiratory Health.

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The original pilot study – known as the Edinburgh and Lothians Viral Intervention Study, or ELVIS – recruited healthy adults within two days of them contracting an upper respiratory tract infection – commonly known as a cold.

The participants were divided into two groups with one group asked to gargle and rinse their nasal passages with a salt solution as they felt necessary. The other group dealt with the cold the way they normally would do.

They kept a diary of their symptoms for up to two weeks. Self-collected swabs were also tested to measure the amount of cold virus in their nose.

Those who did nasal irrigation and gargling with the salty solution had a shorter cold, were less likely to pass it on to their family, had faster viral clearance and were less likely to use medicines from a pharmacy.

Professor Aziz Sheikh, Director of the University’s Usher Institute, said: “We are now moving to trial our salt water intervention in those with suspected or confirmed Covid-19, and hope it will be a useful measure to reduce the impact and spread of the infection. It only requires salt, water and understanding of procedure, so should, if found to be effective, be easy and inexpensiv to implement.”

To find out more and to take part, please go to

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