You may have heard the advice from your grandmother to gargle with warm salt water if you notice a tickle in your throat, but it turns out it actually might help you get better if you have a cold. University of Edinburgh researchers looked at 54 patients who had colds. They asked 30 participants to add 3 grams of Cornish sea salt to a 3.38 ounce bowl of boiling water. After waiting for it to cool, they blocked one nostril and inhaled the water through the other, repeating this for both nostrils three times each. Next, they gargled three times with the remaining salt water.
The other group of participants did nothing to treat their cold. Both groups answered daily questions on their symptoms until two days after they got better. Those who used the salt solution saw their colds end 1.9 days earlier, with their blocked nose clearing 2.7 days sooner than those who let the cold run its course. Sneezing came to an end 1.5 days earlier, and coughing eased 2.4 days faster. Another test found those who used the salt water were less contagious– specifically they were 30 percent more likely to see a significant reduction in the amount of virus in their body. It works because cells in the body use the chloride in salt to produce hypochlorous acid (HOCI) which is the active ingredient found in bleach.