Mouthwash and nine other ways to get rid of Covid

For many people, the pandemic is behind us. Yet Covid is spiking again, with about 126,000 new cases daily in the UK. While 21 million of us have had the virus already, two-thirds of the country have not, meaning many ‘first-timers’, who escaped its clutches in previous waves are suddenly succumbing.  

Vaccines and boosters remain the best defence, but is there anything we can do to speed our recovery, if the virus fells us this time around? Here, we separate the sensible from the silly to the downright dangerous.

Complete bed rest 

The main way to recover from Covid is with “supportive care”. “When your body is fighting and stressed with Covid, absolutely rest,” says Dr James Gill, a GP and honorary clinical teaching fellow at Warwick Medical School. “Look after yourself. Don’t add in additional stressors, as your body is already dealing with the Covid infection.” However, Telegraph GP Michael Fitzpatrick warns against spending too much time in bed, which can quickly lead to muscle wastage. 

Paracetamol + ibuprofen, four times a day

Both are useful medications for the general symptoms of Covid: lowering fevers, and tackling aches and pains. “When used at the correct dose both are very safe medications,” says Dr Gill. “But as with all drugs, we need to ensure there are no contraindications, so people with liver issues would likely be best to avoid paracetamol, and anyone with asthma or renal problems should not take ibuprofen.”

Vitamin D 

“Vitamin D has an essential role in immunity, preventing inflammation and acute respiratory distress,” says pharmacist Aidan Goggins. One 2020 study found that increased vitamin D levels were linked to improved Covid outcomes, while a 2021 intervention research in Scientific Reports, found reduced inflammation and clotting in some but not all Covid patients given vitamin D. On the other hand, a study last year by ZOE and King’s College London failed to provide conclusive results in favour of vitamin D. 

Vitamin C 

A 2007 study suggested that those who took 2000mg Vitamin C for the common cold recovered eight per cent more quickly than those who didn’t. So while getting a healthy dose of Vitamin C from your diet (supplements are unnecessary) is beneficial for general health, it has not been not proven to aid recovery from Covid, according to a 2021 review of several studies. In fact those who have been taking ‘megadoses’ of vitamin C greater than 2000mmg a day raise their risk of kidney stones.

Selenium 

“Selenium is essential for critical enzymes that reduce free radicals in our cells,” says Goggins. “In China, regions where the soil had sufficient selenium levels, death rates from Covid were less than half of those living in regions with soil deficiencies.” In addition, a November 2021 review of the studies concluded that selenium deficiency could affect Covid outcomes, in terms of “severity, mortality, and overall risk of Covid.” Yet, many of us in the UK are short of this mineral, since modern farming methods have stripped it from our soil, with the UK average intake only reaching half the recommended 100mcg/day target, so it could be worth topping up.

Vitamin A and zinc  

“Vitamin A and zinc can improve immune function, and deficiency will clearly have an impact on the immune system,” says Gunter Kuhnle, a nutritional biochemist at the University of Reading. “So it’s not surprising some researchers think they might have a role in reducing the risk of Covid or improving recovery, though there isn’t actual data to support this. As with most vitamins, it’s more about making sure you aren’t deficient, rather than ‘boosting’ immunity.

Turmeric and ginger   

“Both are known to be good anti-inflammatories, particularly so when in food,” says Dr Gill. “I often put them in a smoothie for myself. The evidence for health benefits is centred on food rather than tablet form and while there’s no conclusive evidence for Covid, fuelling yourself with good quality nutrition is always going to help. Your car always runs better when using high-quality petrol; the same is true for your body.”

Mouthwash   

There was plenty of talk of gargling at the beginning of the pandemic, but can a quick swish with a mouthwash really help kill off Covid? While Cardiff scientists found that certain types of mouthwash can kill the virus in the lab in just 30 seconds, and a King’s College professor indicated that iodine mouthwash wiped out Covid for a time, others now urge caution. According to the British Dental Association, mouthwash is well tolerated, but there may be unforeseen risks and little gain.

Quercetin   

A plant flavonoid found in capers and green tea is among the supplements “with some decent research behind it for Covid”, says Humanpeople’s Dr Geoff Mullan, an ENT surgeon turned functional medicine doctor, who has created a Covid recovery immune support pack. “Quercetin has the potential to block the receptors the Covid spike protein attaches to, stopping it from infiltrating the cell,” says Dr Mullan. Research in the European Journal of Pharmacology found that 1000mg of quercetin daily was associated with earlier discharge from hospital for those who had been admitted with Covid. Quercetin is also found in red wine, onions, apples and berries.

Resveratrol 

A potent antioxidant and anti-viral, some experts claim this plant compound can have a positive effect in Covid. “Lab studies suggest that resveratrol inhibits replication of the virus,” explains Dr Mullan.  “There are currently four ongoing clinical trials for resveratrol in the treatment of Covid and there’s already research to show that resveratrol can block receptors in SARS and dengue fever, slowing infection, so it looks hopeful.” Overdosing can lead to stomach problems. Food sources include, grapes, blueberries, raspberries, mulberries, and peanuts.


‘Remedies’ to avoid

A hard run

“High intensity exercise increases inflammatory cytokines, because your muscles are damaged and your body sends a signal that you need to repair them,” says Dr Mullan. “Covid can lead to an overactive inflammation, so by doing hard exercise you’re increasing the risk.” Dr Gill agrees, suggesting the importance of a slow return to physical activity after an infection, “to prevent complications such as inflammation of the heart muscle (cardiomyositis)”.  

Low-frequency magnetic therapy or UVA exposure

Where there are some small studies that at first seem hopeful, Dr Gill cautions against these treatments, calling them “modern day snake oil” preying on the vulnerable for profit. 

A hot sauna

You simply cannot sweat your way to a faster recovery. “That’s rubbish. You’ll likely be harming others by spreading the virus and it could potentially lead to hypertension or tachycardia (spiking heart rate),” says Dr Gill. In short, if you have Covid your system is already under stress, so you don’t want to stress it further. 

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