Why do disinfectants clean the virus from surfaces and our hands, but can’t be used inside the body?
People are feeling a bit akward about voicing this, but we’ve been hearing variants of the following: “I understand that injecting or inhaling a disinfectant is a very dangerous thing to do. But why do disinfectants “clean” the virus from surfaces and from our hands, but can’t be used for the inside of our bodies?”
It’s a fair question.
As you probably heard, some weeks ago there was an uproar in the media about a comment made by the President of the United States which seemed to suggest that disinfectant could be used to treat COVID19 – this New York Times article quoted him saying “And is there a way we can do something like that, by injection inside or almost a cleaning? ”.
However, we understand that some people may see a certain logic to the idea. After all, disinfectants are great at killing the virus from surfaces, including our hands. So why can’t they be used inside the body?
Let’s break it down.
What is a disinfectant?
Disinfectants, such as bleach and alcohol, are chemicals that kill germs by destroying the membranes that envelope them or by affecting their metabolism . For example, when you apply bleach on a lavabo or a table, bleach kills the germs without damaging the inert surface.
But your body is made of cells that have similar membranes to those that envelope some germs, so bleach will work in a similar fashion on your insides, too. If ingested, disinfectants will kill the cells lining your mouth, throat, oesophagus and stomach and can cause chemical burns. esophageal injury, stomach irritation and prolonged nausea and vomiting.
Disinfectants not only damage the internal lining but can cause liver and kidney failure as the body tries to break down the product.
There is no safe way for disinfectant products to enter the body and kill the virus without damaging the human body.
But why then can I safely rub my hands with alcohol or bleach without them suffering any damage?
Ah yes, good point.
That’s because skin has a very different structure than our internal mucosas. Mucosas, the tissues lining the cavities of our bodies, such as mouth and throat, are composed of one or a few layers of living cells. Skin, on the other hand, has three layers: the outer epidermis, the dermis and the innermost subcutaneous layer. In turn, the outermost layer of the epidermis, the “stratum corneum”, consists of dead, flattened skin cells that are held together by skin lipids.
This layer of dead cells is why you are able to rub your hands with alcohol disinfectant without enduring damage to the inner layers with living cells. When this outer dead cell layer is damaged, for example when you have a cut on a finger, you will feel a stinging sensation when rubbing a disinfectant on your hands, as the product reaches inner layers.
So disinfectants are useful on the outside, to clean inert surfaces and our hands, but for treating #COVID19 in human bodies, we need specific treatments that will target the virus without harming our tissues and systems.
If you liked this post, you will also enjoy…