PARKVILLE, Australia — Getting tonsils out is one of the most common pediatric procedures children go through for snoring and sleep issues. However, Australian scientists from Murdoch’s Children’s Institute say there may be a simpler solution now. A simple saline nasal spray significantly decreases snoring and breathing difficulties in children, cutting the number of patients requiring tonsil removal surgery in half.

In Australia alone, researchers say more than 40,000 elective tonsil removal surgeries take place each year. However, the procedure is costly, painful, and uses up valuable hospital resources. It’s at the point where local children normally wait for over a year in the public healthcare system to undergo surgery for tonsil and adenoid removal, which shows there’s a great need for other treatments that tackle sleep disordered breathing.

While the surgery also helps children with health problems like recurrent infections, tonsil stones, trouble swallowing, and unstoppable bleeding from the tonsils, some children undergo it unnecessarily, according to Murdoch Children’s Dr. Alice Baker. Shifting gears to a non-invasive spray may help prevent such cases. Overall, using either a saline nasal spray or an anti-inflammatory steroid nasal spray cleared up symptoms in 40 percent of patients after six weeks of treatment.

The spray is already taking the burden off families

This study was designed as a randomized-controlled “MIST” trial of different sprays, including 276 child participants between the ages of three and 12, and was performed at The Royal Children’s Hospital and Monash Children’s Hospital. The international work showed that making sprays the initial go-to approach for treatment may help families better manage their children’s issues with sleep since it doesn’t require them to find a specialist just to get proper treatment.

“A large proportion of children who snore and have breathing difficulties could be managed successfully by their primary care physician, using six weeks of an intranasal saline spray as a first-line treatment,” says Murdoch Children’s Associate Professor Kirsten Perrett in a media release. “Using this cheaper and readily available treatment would increase the quality of life of these children, reduce the burden on specialist services, decrease surgery waiting times and reduce hospital costs.”

Stephen Graham and Emily Tuner-Graham enrolled their seven-year-old son Thomas into the trial. Once he received treatment, his parents were pleased to discover that Thomas stopped snoring and no longer required tonsil removal surgery.

“From three years of age Thomas started snoring and we were concerned that he would eventually need surgery,” the child’s parents explain. “Prior to joining the trial, a specialist recommended having his tonsils out. It’s a such huge relief that by just using a nasal spray his breathing difficulties have cleared.”

There could be many more success stories like this one in the near future.

The findings are published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics.

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