We’re all doing our best to protect ourselves — and one another — amid the coronarvirus (COVID-19) pandemic right now. While adhering to social distancing guidelines, washing our hands, and wearing a mask are all great ways to do so, new research reveals that there’s another super simple habit we can adopt to help slow the spread: using mouthwash.
Mouthwash and COVID-19 — The Research
In a new study conducted by Penn State College of Medicine, researchers set out to determine whether oral mouthwashes and antiseptics could inactivate coronaviruses like SARS-COV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Since the nasal and oral cavities are major points for transmission of the virus, the researchers tested various oral and nasal rinse solutions to see if they could neutralize the virus in those areas. They used a solution of one percent baby shampoo, a variety of peroxide antiseptic rinses, and a variety of mouthwash brands. They allowed the solutions to interact with the virus for 30 seconds, one minute, and two minutes.
To measure how effective these solutions were, the researchers placed them in contact with solutions containing a strain of human coronavirus. According to their results, many of the mouthwash and gargle solutions were able to inactivate 99.9 percent of virus after just 30 seconds of contact. What’s more, the baby shampoo solution, which is typically used by head and neck doctors as a sinus rinse, also inactivated more than 99.9 percent of the coronavirus after two minutes. This tells us that if someone is carrying the virus, using mouthwashes and nasal rinses could deter transmission and help slow the spread.
“While we wait for a vaccine to be developed, methods to reduce transmission are needed,” Craig Meyers, lead researcher on the study, said in a press release. “The products we tested are readily available and often already part of people’s daily routines.”
If you’ve tested positive for the virus (or suspect that you may have it) these interventions could also help protect your family should you need to quarantine at home. Even further, if you’re an essential worker and your risk of contracting the virus is higher, Myers says these results are important.
“People who test positive for COVID-19 and return home to quarantine may possibly transmit the virus to those they live with,” he said. “Certain professions including dentists and other health care workers are at a constant risk of exposure. Clinical trials are needed to determine if these products can reduce the amount of virus COVID-positive patients or those with high-risk occupations may spread while talking, coughing, or sneezing. Even if the use of these solutions could reduce transmission by 50 percent, it would have a major impact.”
So if it’s not already a part of your routine, using mouthwash or a nasal rinse daily might be a good idea — especially if you’ve already tested positive for the virus or have been exposed. With small changes like this, we can all help do our part to slow the spread of this virus and protect each other as best we can.