Hypertonic saline solution: Everything you need to know about inhalation solution

Hypertonic saline solution is inhaled with a nebuliser. The solution helps expel thick mucus from the lungs. Read here to find out why this works and for useful tips on inhalation solution:

What is hypertonic saline solution?

Hypertonic saline solution is a solution for inhalation with a nebuliser such as the PARI BOY or the PARI COMPACT2. Solutions with between two and eight percent salt content are available, as such, hypertonic saline solutions have a higher percentage of dissolved salts than in the cells and fluids in the human body.

Hypertonic saline solution: How it works and why

Hypertonic saline solution works based on the principle of osmosis. The following happens when you inhale hypertonic saline solution:

  • Inhaled hypertonic saline solution reaches the mucosal cells in the airways.
  • This means that the salt content outside the cell is now higher than in the cell.
  • Osmosis sets in and the water automatically flows through the cell membrane where the salt content is higher to address the imbalance.
  • Water is drawn out of the mucosal membrane cells and into the mucus on the surface of the mucosal membrane.

» The hypertonic saline solution starts to take effect: The mucus liquifies.

This mechanism means that hypertonic saline solution promotes the self-cleaning function of the lungs. You cough up the mucus along with the pathogens trapped in it (cough clearance) and can breathe more freely. Salt also helps reduce swelling in the mucosal membranes and boosts circulation.

Video: Inhalation of saline solution » This is how different salt content work

When should I inhale hypertonic saline solution?

Inhaling hypertonic saline solution is the proper treatment if your lungs have a build-up of mucus. This could be due to an acute infection or if you have a chronic respiratory disease such as bronchiectasis, COPD, cystic fibrosis or primary ciliary dyskinesia.

Inhalation of hypertonic saline solution is one of the standard therapies for cystic fibrosis, for example. Patients have a severe build-up of mucus in the lungs and inhale with saline solution several times a day to loosen the secretions so they can cough them up.

» Tip: Children can also inhale hypertonic saline solution.

Buying hypertonic saline solution?

You can buy hypertonic saline solutions from PARI in pharmacies and online shops. PARI’s offer includes two solutions: MucoClear 3% and MucoClear 6% each with a different salt content.

You can mix it with isotonic saline solution to create a different salt concentration.

Homemade hypertonic saline solution

The problem with homemade salt solutions is this: Although it is actually easy to make (table salt + boiled tap water), mistakes are sometimes in the salt concentration of the solution. Table salt also often contains iodine, fluoride or folic acid, which can irritate the airways. Even table salt without these additives can contain anti-caking agents or release agents.

Another problem is the quality of the drinking water. Boiling does kill almost all microorganisms, but not bacteria and viruses that can survive at temperatures of 100 degrees Celsius or that form spores. Tap water can also contain heavy metals, drug residues and microtoxins.

Inhaling salt water over a pot is a mistake that has become deeply ingrained. Salt has a much higher boiling point than water. And so it is left in the pot and only the water evaporates. Thus inhaling salt using the “head over a pot method” has no effect and harbours the additional risk of scalding.

Is there a difference between conventional and hypertonic saline solution?

Most people are familiar with isotonic saline solution, i. e. NaCl 0.9 percent. Isotonic saline solutions contain a salt content that is usually found in the cells and bodily fluids. Inhaling saline solutions therefore generally helps to simply moisten the airways.

Hypertonic saline solutions have a higher salt content than isotonic saline solutions. This allows them to liquify the mucus in the airways and helps clean the lungs if there is a build-up of mucus.

Find out more about inhalation solutions and respiratory health here:

An article written by the PARI BLOG editorial team.

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