DURBAN – In the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic, there was a stream of fake remedies, theories and one advice that was given then was that gargling the throat with either saltwater or mouth disinfectants could help.
Although this was dispelled and labelled misinformation at first, researchers from Chang Gung University College of Medicine, Taiwan, have suggested that throat gargling may have beneficial effects during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The team’s suggestion is supported by recent studies showing that the virus is most active in the throat during the early days of SARS-CoV-2 infection. Research has also suggested that gargling with tap water or hypertonic saline can reduce viral load and disease severity in cases of upper respiratory tract infections (URTIs).
“Although gargling would not eradicate severe acute respiratory syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), it might reduce viral load in the throat and positively influence the course of the disease,” said researchers Chialing Tsai and Pei-Chang Wu.
Writing in the journal Function, another research team said: “It is becoming increasingly recognized that the throat is a major site of replication and shedding of virus in Covid-19 illness and that viral load is important. Throat and sputum are abundant in particles, which peak 5–6 days after symptom onset, and decline thereafter.”
Another trial in England found that, among UTRI patients, nasal cavity irrigation and gargling with a saline hypertonic solution during the first two days of symptom onset was associated with a significantly lower viral load, a two-day reduction in length of illness, a 36 percent reduction in the use of medication and a 35 percent reduction in household transmission.
The authors say potential mechanisms underlying the observed benefits of gargling may involve viral shedding and inactivation of the virus.
“Throat gargling habits with tap water or saline might be suggested for high-risk populations of quarantined people and medical staff. Furthermore, gargling might also benefit the population overall,” said Tsai and Wu.
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