Can Gargling Prevent the Common Cold?

Can Gargling Prevent the Common Cold?
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Gargling, as commonly practiced in Japan, can not only soothe a sore throat, but may even prevent one.

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Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

Gargling is one of the best things to do to treat a sore throat. As one of my medical mentors, Dr. Michael Klaper, instructs, you take a glass of warm water; add a pinch of salt. “…Hold the glass of salt water in your hand, open your mouth, [and] take a deep breath. Tilt your head back, slide a generous mouthful to the back of your throat; and, with your mouth still open, gently breathe out through the water. Continue until the end of the breath, and then [spit it out] into the sink. Repeat until the full glass of salt water is used.”

Works wonders to soothe a sore throat when you have a cold. But I never heard of gargling to prevent a cold. Though “not popular in the Western world, [gargling] has been strongly recommended in Japan to prevent upper respiratory tract infections,” such as the common cold. However, there have been no controlled trials, and it remained unresolved as to whether gargling was really effective—until this one was published in 2005. They found a significant drop in the incidence of the common cold, but not the flu, suggesting that simple plain water gargling is effective to prevent respiratory infections among healthy people. “This virtually cost-free modality would appreciably benefit people both physically and economically around the world.”

What do they mean, “economically?” Well, most Americans, for example, report about two to three colds a year. It actually surprised me. Between medical costs and work absenteeism, we’re talking nearly 40 billion dollars a year; the common cold. So, even if you take into account the 71 seconds it took, on average, to walk to and from the sink, and gargle, and multiply that by the average wage to calculate the “cost of gargling” in wasted time, it’s still considered a cost-effective strategy.

Here’s the latest, a new study on whether it works in kids. “Gargling for Oral Hygiene and the Development of Fever in Childhood.” A total of nearly 20,000 preschoolers were observed for 20 days. And, just like the study for adults, gargling appears to lower the odds of illness by about a third. And, gargling with green tea may work better. Note: they speculate that the fact that tap water is chlorinated may have played a role. So, gargling with filtered water may be less effective. But, I would stay away from iodine solutions (such as Betadine), since one can run into the same kind of iodine overload thyroid dysfunction you can get by eating too much kelp.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Images thanks to Dr. John McDougall, DoctorKlaper.com, and protoflux via flickr

Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

Gargling is one of the best things to do to treat a sore throat. As one of my medical mentors, Dr. Michael Klaper, instructs, you take a glass of warm water; add a pinch of salt. “…Hold the glass of salt water in your hand, open your mouth, [and] take a deep breath. Tilt your head back, slide a generous mouthful to the back of your throat; and, with your mouth still open, gently breathe out through the water. Continue until the end of the breath, and then [spit it out] into the sink. Repeat until the full glass of salt water is used.”

Works wonders to soothe a sore throat when you have a cold. But I never heard of gargling to prevent a cold. Though “not popular in the Western world, [gargling] has been strongly recommended in Japan to prevent upper respiratory tract infections,” such as the common cold. However, there have been no controlled trials, and it remained unresolved as to whether gargling was really effective—until this one was published in 2005. They found a significant drop in the incidence of the common cold, but not the flu, suggesting that simple plain water gargling is effective to prevent respiratory infections among healthy people. “This virtually cost-free modality would appreciably benefit people both physically and economically around the world.”

What do they mean, “economically?” Well, most Americans, for example, report about two to three colds a year. It actually surprised me. Between medical costs and work absenteeism, we’re talking nearly 40 billion dollars a year; the common cold. So, even if you take into account the 71 seconds it took, on average, to walk to and from the sink, and gargle, and multiply that by the average wage to calculate the “cost of gargling” in wasted time, it’s still considered a cost-effective strategy.

Here’s the latest, a new study on whether it works in kids. “Gargling for Oral Hygiene and the Development of Fever in Childhood.” A total of nearly 20,000 preschoolers were observed for 20 days. And, just like the study for adults, gargling appears to lower the odds of illness by about a third. And, gargling with green tea may work better. Note: they speculate that the fact that tap water is chlorinated may have played a role. So, gargling with filtered water may be less effective. But, I would stay away from iodine solutions (such as Betadine), since one can run into the same kind of iodine overload thyroid dysfunction you can get by eating too much kelp.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Images thanks to Dr. John McDougall, DoctorKlaper.com, and protoflux via flickr

Nota del Doctor

This is one of the landmark findings that I’m afraid no one will ever hear about because no one profits. No one, that is, except the millions of people spared from infection! I’ve taken a break from my merciless travel schedule (see all my past and future speaking dates!) to work on my 2013 batch of videos. But, whenever I’m back on the road, I hope those 71 seconds protect me from all those airport germs.

If you liked this video, you may also like The Risks and Benefits of Neti Pot Nasal Irrigation (along with my response to the question Given the “brain-eating amoeba” (Naegleria fowleri) in tap water should I sterilize my neti pot water?). Also, check out Sleep & ImmunityAntioxidant Level Dynamics, and Zinc Gel for Colds?

What else might we learn from the Japanese? See Smoking vs. Kale Juice, Bowels of the EarthAsian Paradox, Why Do Asian Women Have Less Breast Cancer? and any of my other videos on green tea or my other videos on soy.

Check out my associated blog posts for more context: Schoolchildren Should Drink More WaterProbiotics During Cold Season? and The Best Way to Prevent the Common Cold?

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

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