More specifically, does gargling help prevent sickness when a person feels the early-stages of being sick? (That slight feeling of rawness in one's throat, for example, or a light, abnormal fatigue).

A friend of mine says that gargling during this stage has worked wonders to prevent oncoming sickness. The argument made is that one absorbs the offending bacteria/viruses via the respiratory tract—and gargling with an antiseptic kills off otherwise sickness-causing pathogens. For example, if wearing a mask helps prevent sickness by blocking pathogens from the throat, why wouldn't using an anti-septic on the throat directly similarly prevent sickness?

I think this is a biological oversimplification. I claim that, by the time a person feels any symptoms, said person is already sick and gargling won't help prevent further sickness.

This study claims that gargling with water as a preventative measure (i.e. - before feeling any rawness, irritation, inflammation, or fatigue) reduces the occurrence of respiratory tract infections. While I don't think it's quite relevant in this question, it's the most related thing I could find.

A somewhat tangential point: We both agree that, if there's some placebo effect going on that increases the chances of fast recovery after gargling, then gargle all day!

  • @anongoodnurse Whether or not it combats sickness could also be answered on Health.SE—but I'm interested in the biological basis for why this would or wouldn't be the case.
    – AmagicalFishy
    Commented Feb 23, 2017 at 17:54
  • 1
    Medicine is a specialized field within Biology; it covers the "whys". Just offering what I hope is a helpful suggestion. Commented Feb 23, 2017 at 18:01
  • In order to make this appropriate for this site you would first have to at least somewhat verify the premise that these methods do (or do not) combat certain types of illnesses. Then you would be in a position to pose a biology-specific question such as "The following evidence suggests that X methods have Y effects on illness. What is the mechanism by which this occurs?" Simply asking the broad "does it help or not" is a topic for the Health site. Once you find out more then it can be a topic for the Biology site.
    – Jason C
    Commented Feb 23, 2017 at 19:50
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    I dont know..I think based on the "why wouldn't using an anti-septic on the throat directly similarly prevent sickness?" question, this question is possibly ok here (with some edits). It represents a lack of complete understanding about how pathogens invade the body and how the immune system works. A strictly biological answer could fill in the gaps of understanding while answering the [admittedly health-oriented main] question. If it stays, the OP should edit to emphasize that aspect of the question...For now I'll vote to close as it is unclear what you're asking b/c of multiple questions Commented Feb 23, 2017 at 19:52
  • I suppose you could "cheat" by just picking a premise, e.g. "I've noticed that when I gargle with listerine, sinus infections go away consistently more quickly. What is the mechanism by which gargling with an antiseptic clears a sinus infection?" True or not it would at least give the question focus rather than attracting debate (right off the bat, at least).
    – Jason C
    Commented Feb 23, 2017 at 19:55

2 Answers 2


If you feel a cold "coming on" then your body (immune system) is already fighting it.

I was unable to find studies on gargling to prevent respiratory illness.

However the AAFP released guidelines and recommendations for the common cold that looks at many studies for evidence for

  • Prevention
  • Symptom alleviation
  • Decreasing the length of illness symptoms

It discusses:

  1. What things DO have evidence for being effective
  2. What things have evidence suggesting they DON'T work
  3. What things don't have enough evidence to say one way or the other

The AAFP is one of multiple physician academies; others may offer similar guidelines and recommendations as well that you could check out.


I don't think gargling could prevent sickness. Flu and cold are caused by viruses and they usually enter from the nostril. That is one of the reason why facial mask cover the nose as well. Regular gargling with Listerine can suppress the bacterial that grow on your teeth gaps but in the long term it will alter the bacterial ecosystem in your mouth. Gargling hydrogen peroxide is highly dangerous, it can damages the tissue and cause cancer. It can causes blisters and irritation as it is very reactive. If you swallow it accidentally it can cause death. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydrogen_peroxide#Disinfectant https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydrogen_peroxide#Use_in_alternative_medicine

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