Antivaxxers Gargling With the Antiseptic Betadine

Ralph Ellis

September 16, 2021

Editor's note: Find the latest COVID-19 news and guidance in Medscape's Coronavirus Resource Center.

The idea that gargling with the common antiseptic Betadine will prevent COVID-19 is finding a home in corners of social media, but there’s no evidence it works. Even the manufacturer says so.

Betadine, the brand name for povidone-iodine, is a topical medication used to treat cuts, scrapes, and burns and to help prevent or treat mild skin infections. Betadine makes a sore throat gargle but that doesn’t fight coronavirus either, the company said.

"Betadine Antiseptic First Aid products have not been approved to treat coronavirus," reads an official statement on the company website. "Products should only be used to help prevent infection in minor cuts, scrapes and burns. Betadine Antiseptic products have not been demonstrated to be effective for the treatment or prevention of COVID-19 or any other viruses."

But a person purporting to be a physician posted a video on Facebook and Twitter with a caption, in Thai, that says "doctor suggests boosting immunity to prevent Covid-19 by gargling povidone-iodine, protecting the virus from entering the lungs #TokMaiTiang," Newsweek reported.

The video caught on with antivaxxers and other people suspicious of vaccines and other standard COVID treatments, it’s been viewed more than 150,000 times and Newsweek said a number of people posted comments on social media saying Betadine helped.

Newsweek says the immediate side effects of ingesting any povidone-iodine antiseptic include nausea, vomiting, general weakness, and diarrhea. In severe cases, people can suffer acute renal failure, cardiovascular collapse, liver function impairment, shortness of breath, low blood pressure, and even death.

A similar social media push occurred for the anti-parasitic drug ivermectin.

The CDC is warning physicians to be on the lookout for cases of ivermectin overdose, as people increasingly self-prescribe the drug in an effort to prevent or treat COVID-19.

The drug is used to treat river blindness and intestinal roundworm infection in humans and to de-worm pets and livestock. Lotions and creams containing ivermectin are also used to treat head lice and rosacea.

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