Remember when we all thought vodka might help kill COVID? While this theory was proven to be totally wrong, there are now claims that mouthwash might just help defeat the coronavirus. Obviously with so many debunked potential "cures" (i.e. consuming Clorox), this news makes us wary. Before you either totally dismiss the news or drive to Costco and buy out their inventory of Listerine, here's what you should know about mouthwash and COVID-19.
Does mouthwash kill the coronavirus?
Mouthwash might help kill coronavirus, and this theory is based on a June 2020 study published by Function. The study poses that mouthwash may potentially reduce the spread of coronavirus (aka, not kill it!) because mouthwash ingredients like ethanol, povidone-iodine, and cetylpyridinium chlorine may essentially break down the outer membrane of the virus. The study explains that COVID is an enveloped virus, which just means is has an outer layer. That layer is made of a fatty membrane and it is possible to damage that membrane and make it less potent.
At this time, researchers haven't proven whether or not the ingredients in mouthwash can actually break down this layer and cause the virus to become weaker and less transmittable. They've only been looking at previous studies which give them some hope. The researchers wrote, "We highlight that already published research on other enveloped viruses, including [other types] of coronaviruses, directly supports the idea that further research is needed on whether oral rinsing could be considered as a potential way to reduce transmission of SARS-CoV-2. This is an under-researched area of major clinical need."
So, again. Nothing has been proven or even tested yet, but the study outlines what the researchers believe they need to do in order to move forward with trials. Which is definitely promising! But until trials have been successfully completed and we've seen direct results, it's impossible to say if mouthwash works. Even the World Health Organization (WHO) stated, "Some brands of mouthwash can eliminate certain microbes for a few minutes in the saliva in your mouth. However, this does not mean they protect you from [COVID-19] infection." This statement was actually posted back in February.
Some proven ways to minimize COVID-19 exposure exist, though.
You already know that wearing a mask, staying at least six feet away from others in close quarters, and washing your hands and using hand sanitizer are very effective ways to help stop the spread of COVID-19. Until there's a proven, effective vaccine, we can't rely on early studies to provide a magical cure. And people have already (unfortunately) have adopted mouthwash into their anti-COVID arsenal. (Along with humidifiers and supplements — which have their benefits, but there is no evidence saying they'll protect you from COVID.)
Heading into winter- little things I’ve read that might help your odds against COVID:— lisa (@JLisaJay) October 20, 2020
1. A humidifier. (I don’t have one but I have one of those essential oil misters next to where I write)
2. Use mouthwash regularly
3. Take a Vitamin D supplement
4. Get your flu shot
And please, pay close attention the sources you're getting this information from. Don't go with the mindset of "worth trying" and then not wear a mask or distance yourself from others.
They're saying mouthwash kills COVID now, get ready— matt lynch (@colonelmortimer) October 21, 2020
And before you say or even think it: No, Trump did not recover from COVID thanks to mouthwash.
The major takeaway here? Much more research needs to go into the effects of mouthwash before we have a definitive answer. In the mean time, wear your mask, wash your hands, and keep on socially distancing yourself from others.