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A long text message that has gone viral on the internet claims that German scientists have found that we can stop the novel coronavirus from reaching our lungs by "gargling with a semi-hot solution of salt and water" several times a day.
The claim goes on to say that by following this practice, an alkaline environment would be created in the mouths, which would prevent the COVID-19 virus from multiplying.
However, we found that the claims made in the viral post were false. We didn't find any such recommendations made by German scientists. Additionally, claims like gargling with hot water kills COVID-19 and that the virus is sensitive to changing pH had gone viral at the beginning of the pandemic and have resurfaced amid rising cases of COVID-19 due to the Omicron variant.
The viral claim starts by saying, "German scientists announced, after a series of studies, that the Coronavirus not only reproduces in the lungs like the SARS virus in 2002, but also spreads widely in the throat during the first week of infection."
"German scientists assure the German Ministry of Health: if all people clear their throat several times a day by gargling with a semi-hot solution of saltwater, the virus will be completely eliminated throughout Germany within a week," the message goes on to say.
WHAT WE FOUND OUT
We conducted a keyword search to see if German scientists had made such an observation, but could not find any news report or study on the same. The viral claim also didn't mention the names of any of the scientists or studies who had suggested this "cure".
We then tried to check the veracity of the "cures" mentioned in the viral post and found several fact-checks done by fact-checkers around the world. The Quint's WebQoof team, too, had debunked a similar claim that was being shared at the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020.
CAN GARGLING WITH HOT WATER AND SALT CURE COVID-19?
The first claim stated that hot water gargles with salt/vinegar can treat the coronavirus. We spoke to Dr Suranjit Chatterjee, senior consultant, Internal Medicine at Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals, who had dismissed the claim back in 2020.
“The claim that hot water gargles can treat coronavirus is completely wrong and there is no medical basis for such claims,” he said.
Doctors and scientists have repeatedly said that such home remedies provide a false sense of security.
The same was not only repeated by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, but also the health authorities around the world, such as the World Health Organization, UK National Health Services, and Johns Hopkins University.
Health Desk, a COVID-19 resource for journalists powered by public health experts, also said that while gargling with hot water may be effective in reducing the symptoms and severity of COVID-19, there was no scientific evidence to prove that gargling with hot water would prevent COVID-19 infection.
DOES A CHANGE IN MOUTH'S pH IMPACT COVID-19?
The post claimed that by gargling with salt and hot water, "the pH of the mouth turns to alkaline pH," and it becomes unfavourable for the growth of the virus.
A similar claim had gone viral in 2020, which said that having alkaline food would prevent one from getting COVID-19. We had then reached out to leading virologist Dr Shaheed Jameel, who had said that viruses did not have pH values.
Dismissing the claim, Dr Jameel said, "The relation between alkaline foods and the novel coronavirus is totally baseless."
The Health Desk had also pointed out that the claim originated from a 1991 research paper titled, "Alteration of the pH Dependence of Coronavirus-Induced Cell Fusion: Effect of Mutations in the Spike Glycoprotein." The paper talked about the coronavirus mouse hepatitis type 4 (MHV4) and not the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
"Since viruses are not water-based, the pH scale does not apply to the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, the disease that causes COVID-19," the Health Desk added.
Evidently, old and debunked claims talking about methods to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the body have resurfaced amid rising cases due to the Omicron variant.
(This story has been published as a part of The Quint’s COVID-19 fact-check project targeting rural women.)
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