I have a cleft palate condition (~40yo, otherwise healthy) and, until recently, experienced frequent flu-like or food poisoning-like illness symptoms. By frequent, I mean, at its worst, I was getting extremely sick at least every few months, with the same symptoms, and never actually getting back to 100% in between those periods. But, starting January 2019, I adopted daily (or more) saline nasal washes. From that point, until January 2020, I never came down sick. I had sniffles, runny noses, but nothing at all like what I had been enduring before. I hope this finding helps others who have cleft palate or who are perhaps suffering similar symptoms.
Update 2022-10-06: Added Science section. Reorganized Tips section and added frequency-of-use tips. Added Added Updates section and Table of Contents.
Older updates are archived at the bottom under the Updates section.
- 1 Illness Onset and Symptoms
- 2 Inspiration for Saline Nasal Wash Treatment
- 3 Science for Saline Nasal Washes
- 4 Saline’s Effectiveness In My Words
- 5 Availability and Ease of Use of Saline Nasal Spray
- 6 Tips
- 7 Recommendation to the Cleft Palate Medical Establishment
- 8 Conclusion
- 9 Personal History of Flu-like or Respiratory Illnesses
- 10 Updates
Illness Onset and Symptoms
Illnesses would usually come down very quickly. The last one I had was pretty standard: Went to the gym healthy, came home, and started to feel more tired than I should, and by then I could tell a soreness or discomfort in my throat meant I had something coming up. By the time I went to sleep, I had body aches and a fever w/hot and cold sweating while sleeping. Later comes extreme coughing and nasal congestion (to the point it’s easier to breathe out the mouth). Coughing could be so bad that it, eventually, becomes uncomfortable, even painful to cough. Coughs are usually unproductive, in a technical sense. Vomiting and diarrhea are sometimes included but not always.
Inspiration for Saline Nasal Wash Treatment
While working my office job, at the time, I observed a co-worker routinely using saline nasal washes and more than once throughout the day, even though from all indications this person was usually healthy. They told me it helps keep them healthy. I didn’t consider it at option for me at the time but, in hindsight, it should’ve been obvious.
After having many bouts of these illnesses, I started to question each time they came down what I had done to cause it. Like, maybe I shoveled the driveway of snow and got too cold. Maybe my toques and scarves needed to be washed more often. Maybe I ate something and that kind of thing. I switched up things each time but nothing worked, at all, until I adopted the saline nasal wash habit.
Science for Saline Nasal Washes
I have been tracking the science for saline nasal washes in a Twitter thread.
First, the science on viral replication:
“The virus travels to the back of your nasal passages and mucous membrane in the back of your throat. It attaches to cells there, begins to multiply and moves into lung tissue.”
Then studies regarding covid:
“Studies have shown that the use of…nasal saline irrigations can decrease viral shedding…including the common coronavirus…”
More studies that also appeared to surface the fact we knew this before covid and somehow forgot saline nasal solution’s usefulness during covid:
“Hypertonic saline solution shown to inhibit replication of SARS-CoV-2″
“Researchers…have shown that a hypertonic saline solution inhibits replication of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, and have elucidated the biochemical mechanism involved.”
And, most recently (as of October 2022), more results showing dramatic results of saline nasal washes: Twice-daily nose flushing can reduce COVID-related hospitalizations and death, researchers find
“If you have a contaminant, the more you flush it out, the better you are able to get rid of dirt, viruses, and anything else,” she says in a press release about the study.”
“Salt-water nasal rinses decrease covid hospitalization risk “more than eight times…than the national rate.”
Saline’s Effectiveness In My Words
Saline solution has long and varied use in medicine, see the Wikipedia article for details. The article is actually very glowing about saline solution for many medical uses and “[saline solution] is on the World Health Organization’s List of Essential Medicines, the safest and most effective medicines needed in a health system.”
You can read the article for technical details but, basically, in my own words, its salt component inhibits growth of bacteria that might otherwise cultivate in your nasal passages or throat.
For those with cleft palate, you may have a situation where food particles or liquid droplets can move through the roof of the mouth and into the cavities above. By using a saline nasal, you are (1) flushing those cavities, and (2) cleansing them by the saltiness of the solution.
Availability and Ease of Use of Saline Nasal Spray
A saline nasal spray can be home-made, literally from your regular, store-bought salt (reference) and ideally distilled water (easy to get at a grocery store).
Saline solutions can be stored in basic storage containers that you would have at home, like preservative jars.
Convenient spring-loaded, atomizer, saline pre-filled spray bottles can be purchased for relatively inexpensive amounts (CAD $10-$20) and these can be refilled either by store-bought saline packets or by home-made saline solutions.
Pre-dosed Saline Packets
I purchase pre-dosed saline solution packets which you mix with water (ideally distilled). Instructions are provided, with different concentration options, to allow you to customize it how you like.
Stored in Refrigerator
I store my saline solution in the fridge in a basic preservative jar.
I do a spray at least once daily, usually before flossing and brushing teeth before bed. I tilt my head back, insert the spray bottle tip just inside or even outside the tip of the nasal passage (there should be no discomfort), I breathe in slightly while triggering the nasal spray. I do this for each passage and I do this three times (so 3 times per nasal passage).
Use More Often When Sick
I have been experimenting with more frequent use when I know I’m coming down sick.
With my latest flu-like illness I used the saline spray at least every few hours: After every meal and sometimes in between and of course once more before going to sleep.
Right now I have a cold and I’m doing the same thing. We’ll see how that turns out.
I am hoping that increased frequency will reduce symptom severity and ideally prevent the sickness from progressing to something stronger.
The inspiration for increased frequency came from an article in Fortune: Twice-daily nose flushing can reduce COVID-related hospitalizations and death, researchers find
“If you have a contaminant, the more you flush it out, the better you are able to get rid of dirt, viruses, and anything else,” she says in a press release about the study.
Recommendation to the Cleft Palate Medical Establishment
This treatment was so dramatic, instant, and life-changing that I hope medical practitioners, at least those who work with cleft palates, hear about this and start recommending to their patients.
I was in a cleft palate program for 27 years, from birth, had largely the same doctors over that period, and never heard this. They had other good advice but not this. This shouldn’t be a “wait until it comes up thing”. This should be part of a stock battery of advice for any patient with a cleft-palate. The improvement to life is that great.
I really wish I had known this sooner. I’ve been sick so many times with flu or food poisoning-like symptom illnesses, and flu and food-poisoning are not fun (they’re brutal), that I really started to be concerned about relationships and my future health when I was older with a weaker immune system if I wasn’t going to be able to find a solution. I’m happy and grateful to God that he brought these experiences my way and shaped my thinking in such a way that I fell onto this solution.
Once again, I hope somebody in the medical community reads this and starts recommending saline nasal washes. I think it’s that important and should start as soon as the patient is old enough to properly handle their self-care.
Thank you for reading this. I’ve written this because it’s something I didn’t have for many years and I hope it helps somebody else going through the same or similar thing.
Personal History of Flu-like or Respiratory Illnesses
- November 2022: Extreme nasal/forehead congestion, moderate fatigue, not much cough but post nasal drip when lying down to sleep causes coughing
- October 2022: Developing cough, started mild, became stronger, used saline nasal rinse multiple times per day, congestion, developing into full fever/body aches flu-like illness and recovery
- Oct 7 22 Fri afternoon: coming down sick; Friday night: Fever, muscle ache, hot/cold sweats; Saturday morning: Fever broke, muscle ache, cough, congestion; Sunday: Weak, less muscle ache, cough, congestion; Monday: More energy, less muscle ache, cough, congestion, each ache; Tuesday: Stronger (went shopping), little muscle ache, cough, less congestion, more ear ache; Wednesday: Stronger, very little muscle ache, cough, less congestion, more ear ache; Thursday to Tuesday: A little bit better each day, cough lessening, congestion lessening, ear aches almost gone, still low energy but returning, trying to get exercise back in but still half strength; It will be two weeks or more before I’m 100%.
- September 2022: Super mild, basically normal, used saline nasal rinse multiple times per day
- April 2022: Probably omicron covid, moderate-to-severe symptoms for 2 days then back to normal (so, like my flus before covid)
- January 2020: Probably covid, severe symptoms lasting a week, I’d say, another week to get back to normal-ish
- January 2019: Moderate to severe symptoms for 2-3 days, then another 2-3 days recovering but able to work, started saline nasale rinses after this
- January 2018: Solved frequent flu-like illness with saline nasal spray. Wasn’t sick again for a year.
- Pre 2018, for a decade or more, and before using saline nasal rinses: Severe symptoms for at least 2-3 days, recovery for a few more days, never back to 100% until January 2019 when I started saline nasal rinses
- Frequent Illness (Pre 2018) to Solved (2019-2022) to Frequent Illness Again (2022):
- In January 2018, I had figured out flu-like illnesses could be significantly alleviated using saline nasal spray and I went from illness every other month (and never 100% healthy) to near 100% healthy and only getting an illness once per year in January 2019 and January 2020.
- From January 2020 until April 2022 I had avoided flu-like illness. Then I went months until September/October/November when I again began to have regular illness and never 100% healthy.
- I attribute this to covid restrictions preventing my immune system from being exposed to pathogens and now it’s all coming at once.
- Body Shutdown Behaviour
- When sick you lose energy, lose smell, lose appetite, experience discomfort and pain
- All of these are your body’s immune system shutting you down so that it can most efficiently fight off the illness
- But perhaps more importantly the result of all of this is that your body is discouraging you from doing the things that potentially caused the illness in the first place
- So, discontinue any ‘extra’ routines while you are sick, including exercise, hygiene, or your usual ‘interesting’ food (go back to basic bland food while sick)
- Resume extra routines once you’ve recovered