Could your favorite mouthwash help prevent the spread of coronavirus?

mouthwash coronavirus
Photo via Mike Mozart/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Your favorite mouthwash could inactivate coronavirus, according to recent research from Penn State College of Medicine. And certain brands could be useful in reducing the amount of virus—or “viral load”—in the mouth following infection. 

The research indicates that a simple swish before leaving the house and after returning could help combat the spread of COVID-19. A group of physicians and researchers conducted the study through testing multiple “oral and nasopharyngeal rinses” to determine their ability to inactivate human coronaviruses similar in structure to COVID-19. They examined a range of products, including “1% solution of baby shampoo, a neti pot, peroxide sore-mouth cleansers, and mouthwashes,” according to the study. 

Several of the oral and nasal rinses were effective in neutralizing the virus. This indicates that these products could be successfully used by COVID-positive patients to reduce the potential for spread. The results are useful when it comes to mitigating spread, particularly since a vaccine—at the earliest—won’t be ready until late November

As noted by the lead on the project, distinguished professor of microbiology and immunology Craig Meyers, the tested products are “readily available and often already part of people’s daily routines.” 

By this point in the pandemic, most people are aware that the virus tends to cling to our oral and nasal passages. Researchers allowed their chosen products to interact with a similar strain of coronavirus for 30 seconds, one minute, and two minutes. 

The 1% baby shampoo solution, commonly used by physicians to rinse the sinuses, was effective in inactivating more than 99.9% of the virus after two minutes. Several of the tested mouthwashes and rinses produced similar results, many of them inactivating up to 99.9% after only 30 seconds. Some were even more effective. 

Several of the tested products were easily obtainable, over-the-counter solutions. This research is particularly helpful for people who live with family or friends. After testing positive, these methods could help immensely in stopping the spread to members of your social circle, even if you live together. 

Consistent mask wearing practically necessitates fresh breath, so this is a welcome development. Properly worn masks cover both the mouth and nose, so bad breath should be avoided at all costs. If a swish of mouthwash can help stop the spread of coronavirus, it would be effectively killing two birds with one stone. 

Forbes wrote about the potential offered by oral and nasal rinses in late August. The report shows that a number of rinses can be effective, including a simple gargle with saltwater. As noted in the article, the cost of saline solutions and mouthwash is minimal. 

Sources: Penn State University, Forbes, Science Daily

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