It Came in the Mail

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Sunday, March 16, 2008

An occasional look at products the travel industry insists we need.

WHAT: Nozin Nasal Sanitizer, a medicated swab to ward off sneeze- and cough-borne illnesses.

AIMED AT: Travelers wary of inhaling cold and flu germs.

HOW MUCH:$9.95 for a 10-dose travel pack.

BUT DOES IT WORK? The folks at Nozin say the 50 percent ethyl alcohol solution you swab around the rims of your nostrils kills all sorts of disease-causing bacteria and viruses; the other, mostly plant-based, ingredients (which give Nozin its nice citrus smell) form a kind of oily barrier that is supposed to keep germs from setting up shop in your nose for up to eight hours. Nozin has been tested mostly in laboratories (though one small test in actual human schnozzes showed it reduced bacteria there by 90 percent). Company president and chief science officer John Willimann says that doing the large-scale clinical trials needed to show whether Nozin actually prevents colds and the flu is no-go for now.

But without such research, says William Schaffner, vice president of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases and head of the department of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, there's no telling whether Nozin is worth using. Plus, he says, while the nose is a major point of entry for germs, plenty come in through the mouth, where Nozin doesn't go.

"Would I recommend it to family and friends?" Schaffner asks. "No." Instead, he suggests, wash or sanitize (with alcohol-based gel) your hands often, steer clear of people who are sneezing or coughing, and get your flu vaccination every year.

-- Jennifer Huget

Nozin Nasal Sanitizer is available online at and

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