Sorting Out Saline

A staple for the medicine cabinet during the holiday season (or even year round) should be  a saline spray to help with any sinus issues related to congestion and irritation due to colds, allergies, inhaled pollutants or a chronic nasal condition.

Saline solution is a sterile mix of salt and water. But did you know there are different types of saline? Which one is best to use?

First, it is important to know that salt or sodium is very important for normal nerve and muscle function and is required to maintain normal fluid balance in and around the body’s cells. When sodium levels become too high or too low, it can cause imbalance which may lead to disease.

Isotonic or normal saline is the main saline used intravenously because it has the same salinity or level of salt as bodily fluids. It closely mirrors the sodium that is in the body’s cells and is also used in some nasal sprays to relieve sinus congestion and pressure.

Hypertonic saline has higher salt levels than normal bodily fluids. It may be used intravenously to treat spider and varicose veins because the additional salt causes blood cells to shrink. It may also be used to treat people with edema or cystic fibrosis. Some nasal sprays have hyertonic saline because it is thought to reduce swelling of the mucous membranes.

Hypotonic saline solution has less salt than normal body fluids and is used to treat infections, often intravenously.

There are other saline solutions—Ringer Gleichenberger and Ems̶ that contain additives and are often used as nasal sprays and washes.

For some people, a hypertonic solution will more likely dry out nasal passages when used as a rinse, whereas the isotonic solution helps restore moisture.

It’s best to consult with your medical practitioner if you have a chronic sinus condition to know which type of saline is best to use for nasal therapy.

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