The coronavirus outbreak started late last year, but the outbreak has evolved into a global pandemic, and there are still no clear signs of an end, so people around the world are scrambling to find an answer--even looking at gargling as a possible solution to stop the spread of COVID-19. But, is it effective against the novel coronavirus?
Japan Encourages Gargling
According to the New York Times, gargling is an essential part of hygiene measures in some countries, especially in Japan and other parts of East Asia.
The national government of Japan promotes gargling to its citizens along with other standard hygiene measures such as washing the hands, using face masks, and social distancing during regular cold and flu season.
There have been several small studies that have shown mouthwash, and other common liquids used for gargling could kill microbes, so it's not surprising to be included in the government's action plan against cold and flu.
Moreover, there had been early studies from Japan that showed that gargling could help treat upper and lower respiratory infections.
Studies Involving Gargling Solutions
One of these studies involves the use of a povidone-iodine oral gargle solution, which can be bought in most pharmacies and commonly used in Japan and other countries for years to treat sore throats.
The experimental study, which was done in 2002, had 23 chronic respiratory disease patients gargle a povidone-iodine solution four or more times a day for several months to two years, and researchers found a 50% reduction of acute respiratory infections compared to the number of incidents before the group started the study.
The solution was able to reduce the infections caused by harmful bacteria, including Staph, Pseudomonas, and Haemophilus.
Is Gargling Effective Against Coronavirus?
However, is gargling effective against the novel coronavirus and the highly infectious COVID-19?
There have been several laboratory studies revolving around gargling and its possible effect on coronaviruses that have been made. However, the major limitation of these studies is that what happens in the lab may not translate to the patients and their health.
Nonetheless, there is a recent German laboratory study that discovered the povidone-iodine solution could eliminate 99% of coronaviruses that caused SARS and MERS, which were close cousins of the new coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, that causes COVID-19.
There was also a Japanese laboratory study previously done, which shows that povidone-iodine was better at eliminating harmful viruses like influenze, rhinovirus, rotavirus, coxsackie, and adenovirus compared to other gargling solutions.
So, can it be used against COVID-19?
Despite showing promise against the other coronaviruses, human clinical trials are still required to determine their effect against COVID-19.
It's also important to note that povidone-iodine solutions in America were sold as skin disinfectants that contain an ingredient that could be extremely harmful to the body when ingested.
Many people are allergic to iodine and can cause health issues. It could also cause problems for patients with thyroid problems.
Gargling vs. COVID-19
Other gargling solutions are also available, including Listerine antiseptic, but there is even less evidence of their effectiveness against microbes, especially against coronavirus.
Recently, Metro reported a gargling solution involving saltwater or vinegar had circulated online, saying that these solutions could kill coronavirus "before it reaches the lungs," but experts already debunked the myth, saying it won't kill coronavirus and will not be effective against COVID-19.