Iodine was once a popular treatment for your typical cut and scratch, and now anti-vaxx circles are claiming that gargling or snorting it works as a preventive for Covid-19.
Povidone iodine, known commercially as Betadine, is typically used on the skin as a first aid treatment or a disinfectant for surgery prep. The brand has also introduced a 0.5% mouth rinse meant to treat a mild sore throat, not prevent Covid.
On Sept. 8th, a Twitter user claiming to be an ER doctor tweeted “Don’t get Covid. Prophylaxis is not that hard. Also nasal spray with a couple of drops [betadine] in it,” alongside an image of assorted vitamins. “And gargle with original Listerine,” they added, garnering over 270 retweets and plenty of questions.
Several Facebook and Twitter users have also touted Betadine as gargle or nasal spray additive as a means of preventing COVID, one claiming to use it “every time they’ve been exposed,” citing a 2020 study co-authored by a plastic surgeon.
“Iodine is a disinfectant,” says William Schaffner, M.D., professor of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. “Its use has [slowed down] because even on scratches and cuts, its effectiveness has been debated. There’s no data that this would be effective for Covid.”
Avrio Health, the makers of Betadine, has also intervened in the online conversation around the use of its product as an alternative Covid treatment, stating “Betadine Antiseptic Sore Throat Gargle is only for the temporary relief of occasional sore throat. Betadine Antiseptic products have not been demonstrated to be effective for the treatment or prevention of COVID- 19 or any other viruses.”
Dr. Schaffner’s biggest fear is the ingestion of the product, whether accidentally or intentionally, in one’s attempt to mitigate a Covid infection. “You can really get intestinal upset with nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea [with iodine],” says Dr. Schaffner. “And nobody wants that.” In short, save the iodine for a paper cut, not Covid.
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