Hypertonic saline is a sterile saline solution of different concentrations, 3 percent, 3.5 percent, and 7 percent. It works by increasing the amount of sodium (salt) in the airways.
Salt attracts water into the airways, which thins the mucus, making it easier to cough out. Research has shown that inhaling hypertonic saline twice a day helps people with cystic fibrosis experience fewer lung infections.
Who Should Take It?
People who are 6 years and older, or who have a forced expiratory volume (FEV1) greater than or equal to 40 percent predicted might be able to take hypertonic saline, but it has been studied in younger children. Before it can be prescribed, your CF care team may do some tests to see if hypertonic saline is right for you.
How Do I Take It?
Although hypertonic saline can be given at the care center to make you cough, you will most often inhale hypertonic saline as a mist twice a day through a nebulizer. However, everyone is different, so your CF care team will prescribe how much and how often you should take hypertonic saline based on your specific health needs. To ensure that hypertonic saline does not cause problems, your care team may ask you to take your first dose while at the care center. Ask your care team whether you can use your nebulizer and compressor or if you need different equipment.
For complete instructions on how to take hypertonic saline, visit DailyMed, a service from the National Library of Medicine that provides information about drugs, including dosages and possible side effects.
To take hypertonic saline:
- Wash and dry your hands.
- Empty a single-use vial of hypertonic saline into a clean nebulizer cup.
- Sit upright in a chair.
- Place the mouthpiece of the nebulizer between your teeth and on top of your tongue.
- Inhale and exhale normally through your mouth, making sure you don't breathe through your nose.
- Remember to take a couple of deep breaths every minute or two to ensure the saline reaches your smaller airways.
- When you hear a sound similar to spitting, it means the hypertonic saline is almost used up. Tap on the nebulizer cup. Keep breathing the medication in until it is entirely used.
- Remember to use the full dose. If you need to cough or stop your treatment for some reason, turn the compressor off. When you are ready to restart your treatment, turn the compressor back on and resume treatment.
Do not take hypertonic saline and other medications at the same time.
Hypertonic saline can damage electrical equipment, such as computers, if you take it too close to electronics. Make sure you take your hypertonic saline in a well-ventilated area away from electronics.
What Should I Expect After Taking it?
Unlike medications, such as antibiotics, hypertonic saline does not remain in your system, so the benefits of thinned mucus are temporary. Therefore, it is important to perform your airway clearance techniques right after taking hypertonic saline, or dornase alfa if you take it, while your mucus is still thin and easier to move out of your airways.
You may experience side effects when you take any medication, including hypertonic saline. Common side effects of hypertonic saline include:
- Increased cough.
- Sore throat.
- Chest tightness.
When discussing any new medications or changes in dosages for medications you are already taking, be sure to ask your care team about:
- Any potential side effects.
- Which side effects might be more serious than others.
- How long they might last.
- When to talk to your care team if side effects don't go away or if they interfere with your quality of life.
Let your care team know if you feel any side effect that makes it hard for you to continue taking this medication as prescribed. Your care team can work with you to help you manage side effects or to adjust your treatment plan.