Upper respiratory tract infections (URTIs) are one of the most common reasons for mild morbidity in adults and children. Common symptoms of RTI include throat pain, pain when swallowing, cold, cough, sneezing, pharyngitis and fever.
It is a known fact that most of the URTIs are caused by VIRUSES, such as adenovirus, rhinovirus, influenza, herpes simplex virus, coronavirus and respiratory simplex virus. In fact, less than 20% of URTIs are caused by bacterial infections that require treatment with antibiotics, while others are mostly of viral origin, wherein antibiotics are ineffective.
One of the main reasons why URTIs have to be addressed early is because they are associated with social costs arising on account of absenteeism from school & work, loss in productivity and use of medical resources. Further, as most of the URTIs are caused by viruses, they are highly contagious and can spread from person to person by inhaling respiratory droplets from coughing or sneezing. The transmission of respiratory infections can also occur by touching the nose or mouth by hand or other objects exposed to the virus.
The first step in the development of URTIs is the attachment and colonization of the respiratory pathogens to the oropharyngeal mucosa, and the first symptoms are typically throat pain or pain when swallowing.
Considering the typical viral origins and early symptoms of URTI, gargling offers a practical solution to URTIs. The center for disease control (CDC), USA recommends antiseptic gargle as the best treatment for URTIs. Among various antiseptics, gargling with Povidone-Iodine carries unique merits such as:
- Faster onset of action (within 10 seconds)
- Wider spectrum of coverage, including strong anti-viral activity
- Multiple modes of action, and hence no resistance reported till date
- No change in taste sensation or discoloration of teeth
A study conducted in Japan strongly recommends gargling with povidone-iodine for both prevention and treatment of URTIs, supported by the findings from various studies conducted to assess the role of gargling on both healthy individuals and those with frequent respiratory infections. In these studies, gargling with povidone-iodine solution (four times daily) resulted in 50% reduction in the episodes of chronic respiratory infections.
In another study conducted on children attending middle schools, it was observed that absenteeism because of colds or influenza was considerably reduced after PVPI gargling practice.