Gargling Salt Water Has More Benefits Than You Think

Did your mom ever tell you to gargle with salt water when you had a sore throat? Not only was mom right, gargling with salt water has many more health benefits than just helping a sore throat. Gargling with salt water, also known as a saline solution, can help with sore throats, canker sores, colds, flus, allergies, and even dental health.

A salt water rinse is easy to make and inexpensive. Keep some in your bathroom, or just mix a cup when you need it. Before you start, though, it's important to remember that some people should either avoid this remedy entirely or be extremely careful. Anyone with high blood pressure should be cautious not to swallow any of the salt water. Since you're probably going to swallow a little bit every time you use a salt water gargle, you have to be really careful. Because children under six are unlikely to gargle properly, you should wait until your child is older to use this remedy.

Healthy people also need to avoid swallowing any amount of salt water. It's good for a rinse and a gargle, but not ingesting it. Let's take a closer look at all of the benefits you can enjoy from a saline solution.

Salt water gargle for flu prevention

2013 study found that gargling with salt water is an effective way to prevent the flu if you are around many other people. Researchers followed 338 Iranian pilgrims who were in close contact with each other and watched for signs of any respiratory illness (more common in instances of close contact). The control group had 63 people, and 32 people came down with a respiratory infection. Rinsing and gargling with salt water was shown to be a good preventative measure. 

Gargling with salt water can help prevent the flu by getting rid of pathogens and germs. A 2016 study proved that rinsing with salt water can eliminate pathogens and prevent them from returning. You may even want to trade in your alcohol-based mouth rinse for a salt water rinse, since getting rid of bacteria can also help prevent gingivitis. Speaking of dental health, salt water rinses can have a surprising impact on your oral health as well.

Salt water gargle for mouth sores and dental health

Salt water gargling and rinsing can help improve dental health and help heal canker sores, other mouth sores, and dental surgery. Rinsing or gargling with salt water boosts the pH levels in your mouth, getting rid of bacteria, thinning mucus, reducing pain and inflammation, and creating a healing environment. That's why dentists recommend a salt rinse, not only daily but especially after dental surgery (via Pelham Dental Group). Who doesn't want to heal faster after dental surgery?

Canker sores are small lesions inside the mouth and can pop up anytime. They're not contagious, and you don't need to see a dentist for them unless they are large and cause a lot of pain. Fortunately, that rarely happens and they will usually heal on their own in about two weeks. However, a salt water rinse can help reduce the pain and swelling and help them heal faster (via Mayo Clinic). Now, what about that sore throat?

Salt water gargling for sore throat

A sore throat is painful and annoying, making it difficult to eat, swallow, and even talk. When mom told you to gargle with salt water when you had a sore throat, she wasn't just making it up. It really works. 

Sore throats are usually a result of a cold or flu that will go away on its own. However, it could be a symptom of strep throat or tonsillitis. The Mayo Clinic recommends getting to a doctor if you keep getting sore throats, have a high fever, joint pain, earache, rash, swelling, a lump in your neck, or trouble swallowing, breathing, or opening your mouth. These symptoms could mean you have a bacterial infection and need an antibiotic.

A salt water gargle will help reduce the pain and swelling, as well as get rid of those white spots from your sore throat, according to the University of Connecticut. But how does it work?

Your sore throat is a symptom. While salt water isn't going to cure it, it will help soothe it and speed up the healing process. Your throat is getting submerged, and the salt is pulling out any moisture (including any bacteria or virus) present there. Hopefully, you'll spit out some of those germs after your rinse (via Women's Health).  

Ready to make your own saline solution?

How to make a salt water gargle

Mix one quarter to half a teaspoon of salt with eight ounces of warm water. Use distilled or filtered water and sea salt or kosher salt for the best results. Why warm water? It will help the salt dissolve and might feel better on a sore throat than cold water, but you can use cold water if you prefer.

Pour a bit of the mixture in your mouth. Tilt your head back so the salt water rests in the back of your mouth at the top of your throat. Breathe out of your mouth to gargle the salt water for up to 15 seconds, and then swish it around your mouth. Spit it out in the sink. Rinse with water to get rid of any leftover salt and avoid swallowing it. Keep doing this until your glass of saline solution is gone.

You can use your salt water gargle two to three times a day. Gargling with salt water has so many health benefits — it can help with allergies, colds, flus, sore throats, canker sores, and dental health (via Insider, Healthline, and Mayo Clinic).