Does drinking bleach protect you against COVID-19?

In a Nutshell

  • Drinking, injecting, or inhaling bleach is not protective against COVID-19
  • Bleach and other corrosive chemicals should never be introduced in our body due to serious risk of injury/ harm
  • Seek immediate medical help if you/ loved ones have intentionally or accidentally ingested bleach or other disinfectants

Never ingest bleach

The global COVID-19 pandemic has affected millions across the globe. So far there is no cure or treatment to prevent, manage, or treat COVID-19. This has led a lot of people to test out unconventional (and even potentially dangerous) methods to minimize the risk of contracting the infection. According to a survey conducted by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on 502 survey participants, about 39% of the study sample reported misusing bleach and disinfectants to reduce their risk of getting COVID-19 infection. This include:

  • Washing fruits, vegetables and other food items with bleach and disinfectants
  • Applying bleach and other disinfectants on their skin
  • Swallowing or gargling with diluted bleach solution
  • Spraying bleach solution on the body
  • Inhaling bleach and related products

Poison Control Center also reported a spike of 20% in the calls (during first quarter of 2020 vs. first quarter of 2019) requesting information about the efficacy of consuming bleach and disinfectants to prevent COVID-19 infection. Health officials also reported an increased number of poisoning cases due to bleach ingestion in the first quarter of 2020.

Verdict: Does drinking bleach protect you against COVID-19?

Bleach or any other disinfectant product should never be ingested, injected, or inhaled as these compounds are extremely toxic and may cause serious damage to the body tissues. It is noteworthy that any amount of bleach and disinfectants is toxic and may lead to a variety of complications including death.

The symptoms or degree of complications after ingestion of bleach and other disinfectants vary, depending on the dose, age of person, overall health of person, route of intake, and if it was mixed with other chemicals.

Swallowing of bleach may lead to:

  • Severe burns and serious damage to mouth, esophagus, stomach, lungs, and other tissues
  • Vomiting that may make the internal tissue damage worse
  • Aspiration pneumonia (due to serious injury to lungs)
  • Respiratory difficulty that may range from chest pain, oxygen deprivation, and even death
  • Low blood pressure
  • Liver failure
  • Severe diarrhea
  • Abnormal heart rate

Can I use bleach and other disinfectants on my skin?

Bleach and other disinfectants that includes wipes, sprays, liquids etc. are designed to kill harmful bacteria from hard surfaces like countertops, floor, desks, and should never be used on animal or human skin.

Does spraying people with aerosolized bleach or disinfectant protect you against COVID-19?

There is no evidence that aerosolized disinfectants or spraying people with diluted bleach can prevent the spread of COVID-19. In fact, these practices are proven to be harmful to human tissues and should be avoided.

CDC has approved the use of human antiseptics (such as hand sanitizers) for hands only. It is noteworthy that hand sanitizers should not be ingested, inhaled, or injected due to potential risk of toxicity. Never used aerosolized sanitizers to disinfect the air in a closed space as aerosolized sanitizers and disinfectants are highly inflammable.

Nuances/ Safety

What should you do if you or your loved ones have ingested bleach?

If you or someone you know have ingested bleach or any other disinfectant, immediately call Poison Control department or your healthcare professional. These compounds can cause serious damage to your tissues and may even prove fatal depending on the quantity ingested.

Strength of Evidence: A
The inferences drawn in this article are a result of clinical trials and studies reported in peer-reviewed journals.

Our Ruling

Bleach and other disinfectants can kill harmful bacteria and viruses from our physical surroundings but should never be introduced into the body in any form (injectable, inhalational, or ingestion) as these chemicals can damage living tissues and may even prove fatal. If someone you know has accidentally ingested bleach or disinfectant, seek immediate help.

Our Sources:

  1. https://www.fda.gov/emergency-preparedness-and-response/coronavirus-disease-2019-covid-19/covid-19-frequently-asked-questions
  2. https://www.statnews.com/2020/06/05/cdc-misusing-bleach-try-kill-coronavirus/
  3. https://www.jaad.org/article/S0190-9622(20)30609-5/pdf
  4. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/cleaning-disinfection.html
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How we grade evidence?

Learn more about it here.