The idea of snorting baby shampoo is not as crazy as it might sound. Rhinologists, doctors who specialize in the treatment of diseases of the nose and sinuses, have been using baby shampoo in nasal rinses for years. Compared to rinsing with salt water, baby shampoo does a better job of eliminating viruses and bacteria which can cause post-surgical infection. That’s because the cleansing agents in the shampoo can dissolve the protective membranes of certain bacteria and viruses, thereby inactivating them. However, until recently, there was no evidence that baby shampoo may be effective against Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) which causes Covid.
Researchers at Penn State College of Medicine tested this hypothesis in the lab using solutions containing a strain of human coronavirus that is genetically similar to SARS-CoV-2. The solutions were then treated with various agents, including Johnson and Johnson’s baby shampoo. They then placed the treated solutions in contact with cultured human cells and measured growth of the virus. The results, published in the September 2020 Journal of Medical Virology, show that a 1% solution of baby shampoo deactivated 99.9% of this coronavirus after a two minute period of exposure.
Laboratory tests are useful but of course the best proof would come from a study on humans. That’s exactly what Dr. Justin Turner, a rhinologist at Vanderbilt University, has proposed. Dr. Turner has initiated a clinical trial to measure how rinsing the nose with diluted baby shampoo reduces the symptoms of Covid as well as how the disease spreads. The study was initiated in May of 2020 but unfortunately, results expected are not expected until June of 2022.
In case you’re wondering why baby shampoo is the focus of these studies, it’s because of what it contains as well as what it does NOT contain. As you might guess, baby shampoo is formulated to be milder than other types of shampoo. If you peruse the ingredient list you’ll see chemicals like Cocamidopropyl betaine, Decyl glucoside, Sodium cocoyl isethionate, Sodium methyl cocoyl taurate, and Lauryl glucoside. Regular shampoos, on the other hand, typically contain ingredients like Ammonium/Sodium lauryl sulfate and Ammonium/Sodium laureth sulfate.
This difference means that baby shampoos are substantially different than regular shampoos which are formulated with anionic detergents like lauryl sulfates and laureth sulfates that clean and provide copious foam. However, sulfates are such powerful detergents that they can also irritate the skin and mucous membranes. Baby shampoos use milder surfactants (known as amphoteric surfactants) that clean without causing that burning sensation – that’s one of the reasons why baby shampoos are labeled “tear-free.” Amphoteric surfactants also generate less foam than sulfates which is good for a nasal rinse application.
Baby shampoos also make good nasal rinses because of what they do NOT contain. Typically they are formulated without conditioning agents like silicones and oils that keep your hair smooth and frizz free. While these ingredients are desirable in a product intended to moisturize heat damaged or color treated hair they are not helpful in a nasal rinse.
Even if these studies do establish that baby shampoo is effective against Covid, keep in mind it will be a preventative, rather than a curative, treatment. It won’t kill ALL the virus but it should significantly reduce the viral load. This is important because the amount of the virus you’re exposed to is a major factor in determining whether or not you’ll contract the disease. Also, if the virus has already spread through your body cleansing the nose won’t cure you but it may reduce the amount of virus that you spread to others.
If you’re interested in learning more about the benefits of rinsing your nose with baby shampoo for Covid or for a sinus infection, you can schedule a telehealth consultation with Dr. Caballero at Advanced Sinus and Allergy Center by calling 847 655-7442.
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