The isotonic saline nebuliser device turns 0.9 per cent sodium chloride into a mist for inhalation. It is commonly used by both patients and health care professionals to treat respiratory illness. Although traditionally viewed as a placebo, nebulised isotonic saline can be beneficial in patients with a respiratory illness. Other studies have shown it has ergogenic uses as well.
The use of isotonic nebulised saline can be used to enhance expectoration, or mucous removal, from the bronchioles. The journal "BMC Pulmonary Medicine" reported in 2004 that 65 per cent of patients benefit from saline alone compared to just 5 per cent of the controls. In addition, the isotonic saline group reported better subjective breathing scores. This was due to the smaller amount of mucous obstructing the airways. If sputum is needed to test for respiratory pathology, then nebulised saline is recommended for loosening and removal.
Isotonic nebulised saline can be used to humidify airways. If a patient is having decreased oxygen intake due to illness, adding just dry air can irritate the lining of the lungs. Using a small amount of nebulised saline can ease the process by decreasing damage to the cilia, which are tiny "brooms" that move particles through mucous membranes.
Maintaining a smooth unobstructed airway is vital in patients, but it also has recreational uses. The "Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research" compared water-nebulised soprano singers to a saline-nebulised group. The saline group exhibited better vocal effort than water alone.