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Nasal irrigation may prevent chronic sinus ailments

Steam inhalation not effective, randomized controlled trial shows

Date:
July 18, 2016
Source:
Canadian Medical Association Journal
Summary:
Advising patient with chronic sinus congestion to use nasal irrigation -- a popular nonpharmacologic treatment -- improved their symptoms, but steam inhalation did not, according to a randomized controlled trial.
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Advising patient with chronic sinus congestion to use nasal irrigation -- a popular nonpharmacologic treatment -- improved their symptoms, but steam inhalation did not, according to a randomized controlled trial published in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal).

More than 25 million people in the United States and about 2.5 million Canadians suffer from chronic rhinosinusitis, or sinus infection, and experience compromised quality of life. To alleviate symptoms, steam inhalation and nasal irrigation are widely suggested as an alternative to common treatment with antibiotics, which are often not effective and contribute to antibiotic resistance.

Researchers from the United Kingdom conducted a randomized controlled trial on the effectiveness of advice from primary care physicians to use nasal irrigation and/or steam inhalation for chronic sinusitis. The study involved 871 patients from 72 primary care practices in England who were randomly assigned to 1 of 4 advice strategies: usual care, daily nasal and saline irrigation supported by a demonstration video, daily steam inhalation, or combined treatment with both interventions.

"We have found that even a very brief intervention of a video showing patients how to use saline nasal irrigation can improve symptoms, help people feel they do not need to see the doctor to manage the problem, and reduce the amount of over-the-counter medication they need to use," said Dr. Paul Little, Primary Care and Population Sciences Unit, University of Southampton, Southampton, United Kingdom.

Patients who were instructed to use nasal irrigation showed improvement at 3 and 6 months, as measured by the Rhinosinusitis Disability Index. Steam inhalation did not appear to alleviate symptoms of sinusitis.

"We found potentially important changes in other outcomes; in particular, fewer participants in the nasal irrigation group than in the no-irrigation group had headaches, used over-the-counter medications and intended to consult a doctor in future episodes," write the authors. "Although there was no significant difference in either physician visits or antibiotic use, as might be expected over only a 6-month follow-up period, our findings concerning consultations are important in the longer term, given antibiotic use increases the risk of antimicrobial resistance."

Since the impact was less than in previous studies that had used more intensive coaching about nasal irrigation, the authors suggest that further research is needed to understand how much coaching of patients is required.


Story Source:

Materials provided by Canadian Medical Association Journal. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. P. Little, B. Stuart, M. Mullee, T. Thomas, S. Johnson, G. Leydon, D. Rabago, S. Richards-Hall, I. Williamson, G. Yao, J. Raftery, S. Zhu, M. Moore. Effectiveness of steam inhalation and nasal irrigation for chronic or recurrent sinus symptoms in primary care: a pragmatic randomized controlled trial. Canadian Medical Association Journal, 2016; DOI: 10.1503/cmaj.160362

Cite This Page:

Canadian Medical Association Journal. "Nasal irrigation may prevent chronic sinus ailments: Steam inhalation not effective, randomized controlled trial shows." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 18 July 2016. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/07/160718093138.htm>.
Canadian Medical Association Journal. (2016, July 18). Nasal irrigation may prevent chronic sinus ailments: Steam inhalation not effective, randomized controlled trial shows. ScienceDaily. Retrieved May 29, 2017 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/07/160718093138.htm
Canadian Medical Association Journal. "Nasal irrigation may prevent chronic sinus ailments: Steam inhalation not effective, randomized controlled trial shows." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/07/160718093138.htm (accessed May 29, 2017).

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