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Everyday habit may reduce household COVID-19 spread

Woman with mouthwash
Regular use of mouthwash/oral antiseptic products may limit the spread of COVID-19 within households. (Source: Adobe Stock)

A large percentage of COVID-19 cases to date have been due to the virus spreading among family members or others living in the same household … with a transmission rate as high as 50% in some studies. But taking the simple step of using mouthwash or another oral antiseptic on a daily basis may help to contain the spread by inactivating the virus in the mouth and throat, Penn State scientists have discovered.

A group of doctors and scientists at the university’s College of Medicine tested several different types of oral and nasopharyngeal (nose and throat) products in a lab for their ability to inactivate human coronaviruses similar in structure to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

The products included various brands of mouthwash, peroxide-based antiseptic mouth rinses, a 1% solution of baby shampoo, and a neti pot. They allowed these solutions to interact with the viruses for periods of 30 seconds, one minute and two minutes before diluting them to prevent further virus inactivation.

They found that many of the mouthwash and oral rinse products effectively inactivated greater than 99.9% of the infectious virus after only 30 seconds of contact time, while others took longer but also did so. The 1% baby shampoo solution – which is often used by head and neck specialists to rinse the sinuses of patients – inactivated more than 99.9% of the virus after two minutes of contact.  

The team said that while more specific studies are needed, these products may have real potential to reduce the amount of virus spread by people who are positive for COVID-19, especially inside their own homes.

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