Saltwater soothes cold symptoms

By Shayna Brouker • Published: December 20th, 2010
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Don’t hold your breath waiting on a cure for the common cold… gargle some salt water instead.

With cold season well upon us, winter warriors assemble an arsenal of their preferred sniffle-fighting remedies, from salty chicken noodle soup to soothing chamomile tea. But one of the best remedies for cold relief may already be stocked in your kitchen cabinet: salt.

According to the Mayo Clinic Book of Home Remedies, gargling salt water can ease cold symptoms like a sore throat. Grandmothers have long touted this method as a reliable home remedy, and now science solidly supports its value… not only as a treatment, but as a preventive measure.

A study of about four hundred people conducted during flu and cold season found that those who gargled three times a day had nearly forty percent fewer upper respiratory tract infections than those who did not. It also helped alleviate sore throats for those unlucky few who did catch a case of the cold.

How does it work? Saline solution draws fluid away from inflamed tissues in the throat and acts to loosen mucus, flushing out irritants like bacteria and fungi.

The Mayo Clinic recommends a half-teaspoon of salt mixed in a full glass of warm water. Gargle in the back of the throat for three seconds, then spit out.

But if you just can’t swallow the idea of gargling salt water, try warm water with lemon juice and honey instead. No need to spit it out, either… just sip it as you would tea.

Either way, be sure to supplement your sniffle-stopping tactics with plenty of fluids and chicken soup to stay hydrated. Saline nasal drops or sprays also combat congestion.

While there’s still no cure for the cold other than letting it run its course, a little salt can go a long way.