Science shows Grandma was right! The researchers even specify a recommended salt-to-water ratio to prepare your formula right at home.
This week, the World Health Organization (WHO) released updated guidelines for treating COVID-19, acknowledging a decline in severe cases due to encouraging vaccination rates and a 2023 strain that causes less severe symptoms for most patients.
Consequently, fewer individuals now qualify for specific severity-reducing medications like Paxlovid, as outlined in the guidelines. However, an alternative, less technologically advanced approach to symptom management may exist, according to a recent study—one that might garner your grandmother’s approval. Bonus: You probably have the main ingredient in your pantry.
A recent study presented at this year’s American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (ACAAI) Annual Scientific Meeting showcased data on significantly reduced hospitalization rates among COVID-positive individuals, thanks to a simple salt gargle when it was used several times daily for 14 days.
The study enrolled 58 participants aged 18 to 65, who tested positive through a PCR test and randomly assigned them to either a low- or high-dose saline solution used four times daily for 14 days. The low dose consisted of two grams of salt, equivalent to a third of a teaspoon, while the high dose comprised six grams—roughly a teaspoon of salt—dissolved in one cup (eight ounces) of water.
Results indicated that both the low-dose and high-dose salt solutions led to improved hospitalization rates compared to the greater than 9,000 people who tested positive for COVID and were included in the study. The average hospitalization rate for those who did not gargle was almost 60%, whereas participants using the low and high saline solutions experienced rates under 22%.
While this simple treatment presents an exciting and potentially effective way to manage COVID symptoms, lead researcher Jimmy Espinoza, MD, MSc, FACOG, cautioned against believing that salt is as effective as vaccination or treatment from a licensed healthcare provider. “This is a very, very simple intervention,” Dr. Espinoza says. “But this is not meant to replace the actual interventions that we have. We think that this could be complimentary because it’s a simple intervention. It is cheap and it’s available anywhere.”
While the researchers are still trying to understand the exact mechanism behind the saltwater’s effectiveness, Dr. Espinoza said right now they believe the solution may hinder the way COVID-19 replicates itself in the upper respiratory tract.
However, another study on COVID-19 and gargling indicated that mouthwashes with specific ingredients reduce the viral load in the mouth, whereas a saltwater gargle didn’t show a similar effect. Hence, further research is needed to understand the mechanism reducing hospitalization and severity.
Nevertheless, as long as you have no high blood pressure concerns and you consult with a healthcare provider, saltwater gargling could be a safe, affordable, and effective method of treating a new COVID-19 infection.