Do masks work? Your guess is as good as anyone’s. Here’s an answer I like, from Dr. Steven Novella, an academic clinical neurologist at the Yale University School of Medicine: “Wear the mask properly, but act as if the mask does not work.”
What if you could easily add a second line of defense? Provide some protection in your nose and throat where the virus first settles in?
It has been suggested that toothpastes, mouthwashes and nasal rinses might mitigate the virus. A study published in the Journal of Medical Virology found that multiple mouthwash and oral rinse products wiped out a human coronavirus closely related to the SARS-CoV-2 virus in a laboratory.
Because the mouthwash and hydrogen peroxide oral rinses in the study are widely available and easy to use, “I would recommend the use of the rinses on top of wearing mask and social distancing. This could add a layer of protection for yourself and others,” said lead study author Craig Meyers, PhD, professor of microbiology and immunology and obstetrics and gynecology, Penn State College of Medicine in Hershey, Pennsylvania.
“This study adds to and further confirms the recently published evidence from virologists in Germany that mouthwashes can inactivate the virus that causes COVID-19 in a test tube,” Valerie O’Donnell, PhD, co-director of the Systems Immunity Research Institute of Cardiff University, Cardiff, Wales, said when asked to comment on the study.
That study was in a lab, not in human bodies. Other doctors advocate nasal rinses.
The nasal lining serves an important role in the innate immune system, providing a primary defense against inhaled viruses, bacteria, and other particulates. This lining, consisting of a superficial mucus layer atop an aqueous base, traps inhaled particulates that are then propelled by underlying cilia into the nasopharynx. They are ultimately driven into the gastrointestinal system, where they are destroyed. Topical nasal rinses take advantage of this secretory lining in multiple ways. First, nasal rinses physically disrupt the viscous surface layer, removing the mucus and its associated particulate matter. Additionally, the presence of nasal saline helps to increase hydration of the deeper aqueous layer, simultaneously improving the underlying ciliary beat frequency and reducing local inflammatory mediators. This can be particularly helpful during a viral respiratory infection, in which there is resultant mucociliary dysfunction and mucostasis that occurs secondary to the inflammatory response.
Let me warn you: You can’t just go snorting povidone iodine, hydrogen peroxide or anything else. You can hurt yourself. The concentrations of these things on the market are much too strong for your nose or mouth. They need to be carefully diluted. I first thought that I could swab my nose with hydrogen peroxide on a Q-tip: Nope. Moreover, if you’re doing a nostril rinse you can easily spread the virus. Get a doctor’s advice.
I take a zinc losenge before going into the supermarket. There is evidence that this can help. Dr. Ian Tullberg, a board-certified urgent care and family practice physician at University of Colorado Health, says these may work, but it’s too early to know for sure.
Again, too much zinc can be harmful.
But be careful. More than 150mg/day of zinc may lead to zinc toxicity, with side effects including reduced immune function, according to the NIH. That could leave you worse off than when you started.
These home remedies are like any other medicine: They might work for some but not for others. And they can easily by overdone, creating more problems than they solve.