Can Gargling Prevent A Cold?

Post date:2018.01.09

A cold is known to be caused by virus, bacteria, chlamydia, and mycoplasma, and the majority of colds in adults are caused by viruses. An especially important cold is the flu caused by the influenza virus. When colds are going around in the winter, the media, such as TV and newspapers, recommend people to not only refrain from going to crowded places, but also to gargle and wash hands after returning home. We would like to introduce a paper about the effect of gargling this time.

While gargling is commonly accepted as a means of cold prevention, its effectiveness is not adequately verified. It is known that commercial gargle products have been proven to kill viruses that cause a cold in laboratory experiments. However, their effectiveness in cold prevention is a different matter. To establish the effectiveness of gargling, Kyoto University Health Service conducted an experiment with 387 participants who were randomly assigned to water-gargling, povidone-iodine gargling, and usual care (control), two months. The results were, 17.0 of 100 participants in the water-gargling group, 23.6 of 100 in the povidone-iodine gargling group became infected with a cold during a month, compared with 26.4 of 100 participants in the control group.

This study suggests that the water-gargling group had the greatest cold prevention effect while the povidone-iodine gargling group showed less preventative effect. Thus, water-gargling seems to effectively wash away the viruses that cause a cold, compared with povidone-iodine gargling which may demolish normal flora in the pharynx and injure pharyngeal tissue. Recently I heard that Aomori Prefecture recommends not gargling when returning home for cold prevention.

After reading this paper, I once again checked the instructions in the gargle medicine package.  It stated that the product is effective for “prevention of infection by injuries of the oral cavity, a sterilization of oral cavity”, not “effect of preventing a cold”.  Thus, manufacturing and selling companies have not indicated ‘effect of preventing a cold’ from the beginning. However, given both the actual usage of gargle medicine for cold prevention, and the gargling research as mentioned above, the effect of gargle containing bactericidal disinfectant composition needs to be examined through scientific clinical studies by manufacturing and selling companies.