Livin' on the MDedge

COVID wars, part nine: The rise of iodine


Onions and iodine and COVID, oh my!

As surely as the sun rises, anti-vaxxers will come up with some wacky and dangerous new idea to prevent COVID. While perhaps nothing will top horse medication, gargling iodine (or spraying it into the nose) is also not a great idea.

A woman gargles Yagi-Studio/E+

Multiple social media posts have extolled the virtues of gargling Betadine (povidone iodine), which is a TOPICAL disinfectant commonly used in EDs and operating rooms. One post cited a paper by a Bangladeshi plastic surgeon who hypothesized on the subject, and if that’s not a peer-reviewed, rigorously researched source, we don’t know what is.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, actual medical experts do not recommend using Betadine to prevent COVID. Ingesting it can cause iodine poisoning and plenty of nasty GI side effects; while Betadine does make a diluted product safe for gargling use (used for the treatment of sore throats), it has not shown any effectiveness against viruses or COVID in particular.

A New York ED doctor summed it up best in the Rolling Stone article when he was told anti-vaxxers were gargling iodine: He offered a choice four-letter expletive, then said, “Of course they are.”

But wait! We’ve got a two-for-one deal on dubious COVID cures this week. Health experts in Myanmar (Burma to all the “Seinfeld” fans) and Thailand have been combating social media posts claiming that onion fumes will cure COVID. All you need to do is slice an onion in half, sniff it for a while, then chew on a second onion, and your COVID will be cured!

In what is surely the most radical understatement of the year, a professor in the department of preventive and social medicine at Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, said in the AFP article that there is “no solid evidence” to support onion sniffing from “any clinical research.”

We’re just going to assume the expletives that surely followed were kept off the record.

Pro-Trump state governor encourages vaccination

Clearly, the politics of COVID-19 have been working against the science of COVID-19. Politicians can’t, or won’t, agree on what to do about it, and many prominent Republicans have been actively resisting vaccine and mask mandates.

Governor Jim Justice of West Virginia at a Sept. 8, 2021, COVID-19 briefing. Governor Jim Justice /

Gov. Jim Justice

There is at least one Republican governor who has wholeheartedly encouraged vaccination in his pro-Trump state. We’re talking about Gov. Jim Justice of West Virginia, and not for the first time.

The Washington Post has detailed his efforts to promote the COVID vaccine, and we would like to share a couple of examples.

In June he suggested that people who didn’t get vaccinated were “entering the death drawing.” He followed that by saying, “If I knew for certain that there was going to be eight or nine people die by next Tuesday, and I could be one of them if I don’t take the vaccine ... What in the world do you think I would do? I mean, I would run over top of somebody.”

More recently, Gov. Justice took on vaccine conspiracy theories.

“For God’s sakes a livin’, how difficult is this to understand? Why in the world do we have to come up with these crazy ideas – and they’re crazy ideas – that the vaccine’s got something in it and it’s tracing people wherever they go? And the very same people that are saying that are carrying their cellphones around. I mean, come on. Come on.”

Nuff said.


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