Nasal sprays as a defense against Covid

Let’s start with some stuff that may be useful before we let ourselves have any fun. (Dessert comes last, kids. Eat your liver.) Some nasal sprays not only minimize the chance of catching Covid but may be also a useful treatment if you do get it.

New discovery? Only to me, it turns out. They’ve been around a while and the earliest study I found dates back to 2020–relatively early in the pandemic, when precious little in the way of protection was available and many front-line medical workers took to using them.

The sprays use iota-carrageenan. The bit I’m about to quote (it’s from the link just above) uses a brand name for the stuff. “Carragelose is a sulfated polymer from red seaweed and a unique, broadly active anti-viral compound. It is known as a gentle yet effective and safe prevention and treatment against respiratory infections. Several clinical and preclinical studies have shown that Carragelose® forms a layer on the mucosa wrapping entering viruses, thereby inactivating them, and preventing them from infecting cells.”

Got that? The useful words are “anti-viral,” “effective,” and “safe.”

Irrelevant photo: primroses

“Seaweed” isn’t particularly important but it is interesting. I’ve never squirted seaweed up my nose before. At least not while sober.

How often do you use it as a preventive? One study had medical workers using it four times a day, and it did decrease the odds of their catching Covid.

Another study had people using it three times a day and measured the number of people with Covid antibodies. By that standard, it was 62% effective. It also found that people who used the spray were less likely to develop symptoms than people in the control group. 

A third study reported the stuff to be 80% effective. It also describes Carragelose as a derivative of red algae. Don’t ask me. The article explains the mechanism this way: “The natural active ingredient forms a protective film as a physical barrier and prevents viruses from infecting the mucous membrane by introducing their genetic information into the membrane cells and propagating.”

The early studies were limited by the lack of testing early in the pandemic. They couldn’t be sure that they hadn’t included asymptomatic carriers or people already in the early stages of symptomatic Covid, leaving the numbers a bit wobbly.

The spray is effective against other viruses as well. It’s available under a number of brand names. Ask Lord Google about iota-carrageenan nasal sprays to find out what’s available wherever you live. 

Having read all that, I rushed out and bought a set of hers-and-hers nasal sprays for the household and started using mine in–well, in the random way that you (or at least I) do when you’re defending yourself against an invisible enemy. Is it here? Is it there? Is it under the piano? We don’t have a piano, but what level of human density demands that I shoot seaweed up my nose? I didn’t stop wearing a mask, since 60 to 80% is not 100%, although, damn, I was tempted. And as luck would have it, I now have Covid. That’s not what you’d call a ringing endorsement. It’s also a damn good example of irony. But I’m a sample of 1, which is to say, I’m not statistically significant, even if I am somewhat significant to my own self. I’m not sure where or when I caught it, so I don’t know if I was using the spray at the time. Quite possibly not.

I’m now using it in the hope that it’ll keep the case milder than it might be without it. I’m on the mend and expect to be in the clear  soon. I was pretty addled for the first couple of days (that still qualifies as a mild case) but I’m functional enough now to update and post this, although I’m not sure how competently I’ve done it. Whether nasal seaweed has anything to do with my rate of improvement  we’ll never know, since you don’t get to go back, pick a different path, and compare outcomes. 

Make your own decisions, folks. I’m not here to sell you anything.


Long Covid news

This is a bit tentative, but research suggests (sorry–we can’t use a stronger verb there) that vaccination may make long Covid shorter and less severe. The problem is that studies weren’t able to set up randomized trials. Too many people they had access to had already been vaccinated. But several studies hint that “Covid-19 vaccines might both protect against, and help treat, the symptoms of long COVID, with the proviso that more good quality evidence is needed.”

It’s not a smoking gun, but then we weren’t actually trying to shoot anyone.

A different study says that the omicron variant is less likely to lead to long Covid than the initial variant–what they call the wild-type virus, as if we’re in the process of domesticating this beast.

I don’t know. Maybe we are. 

The study has its limits, one being that long Covid can only be diagnosed by checking off a series of symptoms–there’s no test for it. The other is that the participants were mostly young and healthy. But for what it’s worth, where the initial version left people who had Covid 67% more likely to develop long Covid symptoms than the uninfected, omicron leaves the two groups equally prone to them.

Which if you read the fine print says other things can cause the symptoms of long Covid–another thing that makes it so damn hard to measure.

And finally, a study reports that having Covid can lead to face blindness–called prosopagnosia if you’re trying to impress someone. It’s counted as one of a range of neurological problems long Covid can cause. The good news for me is that I don’t have to worry about that one–I’ve had it for years.

Ha. Fooled you there, Covid.


And finally…

…for dessert, we get to have the fun I promised. Some genius has developed exactly the thing a pandemic-haunted world has been longing for–glow-in-the-dark Covid tests

Yes, kids, if your Covid test runs away, all you have to do is turn out the lights and there it’ll be, glowing away under the armchair. 

Life is good. Or if it isn’t, exactly, it usually beats hell out of the alternative.

Why young adults don’t have a get-out-of-Covid-free card

As the pandemic lumbers onward, we’re hearing more about long Covid–the debilitating long-term effects that some people experience after the disease has passed. Here’s what I’ve been able to scrape together:

No one who catches the virus knows what card they’ll pull out of the Covid deck. Some people have no symptoms, some people get sick and recover, and some people die. As far as most discussions are concerned, that’s it. Cards distributed. Can we play something else, please? 

Well, no, we can’t, because that middle group isn’t done drawing cards. Some of them recover fully, regardless of whether they had serious cases or mild ones, and some–even people who had mild cases–don’t go back to being the people they were before they got sick. And that includes young adults, the people we thought had a get-out-of-jail-free card for this disease. 

The symptoms of long Covid range all over the place. They can include exhaustion, brain fog, memory problems, breathlessness, depression, hair loss, concentration problems, loss of the senses of taste and smell, joint pain, muscle aches, chest pain, chills, sweats, digestive issues, coughs. Trouble going upstairs and trouble walking to the end of the street (the road, the lane, the whatever) get mentioned a lot. Fatigue sounds like the most common symptom.

Some people slowly get better and move on. Some improve a bit and slip back a bit and improve again and slip back again. Some seem to be stuck at the bottom. And it goes on for months. 

Does it get better? We don’t know yet. 

Semi-relevant photo: This is called honesty. I can’t recommend it highly enough, especially to politicians in the middle of a pandemic. It’s out of season at the moment, but let’s not draw any overarching conclusions from that. 

The Covid Symptom Study app–that’s not the official British test and trace app but it’s been downloaded by 3 million people and one cockatoo–says one person in twenty has long-term symptoms. Another app, this one in Scotland and Wales, comes up with one in ten having symptoms for longer than three weeks, some of them for months.

An article in the BMJ quotes Tim Spector, of the Covid Symptom Study, saying that if your version of Covid includes “a persistent cough, hoarse voice, headache, diarrhoea, skipping meals, and shortness of breath in the first week, you are two to three times more likely to get longer term symptoms.” 

Long Covid seems to be about twice as common in women as in men.

Or in one Paris hospital, four times more common. The same hospital said the average age of the long-haulers they saw was forty.

I know. The numbers are all over the place. These are early reports, a lot of them involving a small number of cases. They’re not carefully designed studies. It’s too early for that.

Another study said a third of patients who had mild symptoms hadn’t gotten back to their pre-Covid health after two to three weeks. The older the patient, the more likely that was, but a quarter of the people between eighteen and thirty-four hadn’t bounced back.

Many long-haulers report that many doctors don’t take them or their symptoms seriously–especially if they’re women. And gee, no, we wouldn’t want to draw any overarching conclusions from that either.


Meanwhile, back at the Journal of the American Medical Association, a study reports that older people are underrepresented in trials of both Covid vaccines and treatments. 

Why’s that when they’re the most vulnerable to the disease? Because participation often depends on not having other diseases, or on having smart phones or internet access. 

That causes a problem, because older patients may need higher or lower doses of a vaccine or a medicine. Get it wrong and a cure or vaccine can be either toxic or useless.

Dr. Sharon Inouye said, “To be sure, some exclusions are needed to protect the health and safety of older adults—such as poorly controlled comorbidities. However, many are not well-justified, and appear to be more for expediency or convenience of the trialists.”

Did you say something about overarching conclusions?


Okay, how much do masks, handwashing, and keeping a distance from people limit the spread of Covid? Considerably, according to a study in Thailand.

Wearing a mask all the time lowers the risk by 77%. Wearing it only part of the time you’re with someone does fuck-all. So that business about putting on a mask at a restaurant when you head for the toilets, then taking it off so you can sit back down and shovel food into your face? Useless. 

Keeping a meter away from people reduces infection by 85% and keeping contact down to fifteen minutes or less reduced the risk by 76%. Frequent handwashing? That reduced it by 66%. Add those all together and Covid will end up owing us. Or doesn’t it work that way?

If you’re wondering whether they’re talking about reducing the risk of passing on the disease or of getting it, I wondered the same thing.


Researchers at Oxford University suggest that the best use of limited Covid testing resources would be to test people who are the most likely to pass on the disease–healthcare workers, transport workers, social care workers, delivery drivers, people who go to large gatherings, people in large cities–and to do it at regular intervals.

Random testing, they say, wastes resources.

Are we going to listen to them? Probably not. What do they know anyway?


An anti-Covid nasal spray that’s been tested ferrets looks promising. It interacts with cells in the nasal cavity, waking up the immune system, which then kicks in and–

Okay, let’s not pretend I understand this. I’ll quote: It “kicks in like a defence shield which is broad-sprectrum and non-specific.” So presumably it slaughters anything it finds that looks suspicious. It’s odd how a moderately nonviolent person like my own bad-tempered self turns bloodthirsty when we’re discussing the immune system.

It’s too early to know if it’ll translate to humans. Or cause us to grow a glossy fur coat. 

“The hope is that it will reduce the duration and severity of the symptoms and if you reduce the number of viral particles in the nose, the hope is that it would reduce transmission – although they haven’t done those studies yet.” 

Hang onto that word hope. We need as much of it as we can get these days.

Stay well, people. I don’t have so many readers that I can afford to lose any.