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Gargling with water prevents colds (POEM)

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PJ Online homeThe Pharmaceutical Journal
Vol 276 No 7386 p130
4 February 2006

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POEM (Patient-Oriented Evidence that Matters)

Gargling with water prevents colds

POEM series


Clinical question Is gargling with water or povidone-iodine effective in preventing upper respiratory tract infections?

Bottom line Gargling with water effectively reduces the risk of developing an upper respiratory tract infection (URTI). Nine individuals would need to gargle with water for one minute three times daily for 60 days to prevent one additional person from developing a URTI. Gargling with povidone-iodine is no more effective than usual care.

Synopsis Regular gargling with water or povidone-iodine solution may remove nasal-pharyngeal acquired viruses before they result in a URTI. These investigators randomised (allocation assignment concealed) 387 adults, aged 18 to 65 years, to gargling with water, gargling with povidone-iodine, or usual care. Subjects in the first two groups gargled with approximately 20ml of water or povidone-iodine for approximately 15 seconds three times consecutively, at least three times daily. Follow-up occurred for 60 days from December 2002 to March 2003 for 99 per cent of subjects. Outcomes were reported by individuals (the study subjects) not blinded to treatment group assignment. Using intention-to-treat analysis, 130 subjects (34 per cent) acquired a URTI, including 50 in the control group, 34 in the water group, and 46 in the povidone-iodine group. Only the difference between the water group and usual care group was significant (number needed to treat = nine for 60 days).

Level of evidence 1b– (result from randomised controlled trial with wide confidence interval).

Reference Satomura K, Kitamura T, Kawamura T, et al, for the Great Cold Investigators-I. Prevention of upper respiratory tract infections by gargling. A randomised trial. American Journal of Preventive Medicine 2005;29:302-07.

Funding Foundation


POEM (Patient Oriented Evidence that Matters) is a registered trademark of InfoPOEMs
© infoPOEMs 1995–2004

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Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal URI: 20016567

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