How bad could it really be? The case against injecting yourself with bleach.

Updated: Jun 12, 2020


And then I see the disinfectant, where it knocks it out in a minute. One minute. And is there a way we can do something like that, by injection inside or almost a cleaning. Because you see it gets in the lungs and it does a tremendous number on the lungs. So it would be interesting to check that. So, that, you’re going to have to use medical doctors with. But it sounds — it sounds interesting to me. — President Donald Trump, 24 April 2020


In a turn of events that should surprise no-one, President Trump presents the idea that injecting disinfectant could treat corona virus. After all, we’ve been using it to keep our homes, groceries, and skin virus free; Why not use it to clean the virus out of our bodies?

99.99% of people wouldn’t consider doing something this dangerous, even once the idea has been planted by someone in a position of authority, but for those 0.01% let’s explore the downsides of disinfecting your insides.

It could kill you and it won’t stop the virus.

Viruses, like the one causing our current pandemic, spread through your body by hijacking your cells. The virus injects its code into a cell, it takes over the cell to make copies of itself, and then the cell bursts open letting millions of COVID-19 copies out to infect other cells. The spinoff have a really great explanation of how this happens.

While the lungs have had the biggest spotlight on them throughout this pandemic, they’re not the only place the virus hangs out. Once it is in, it goes everywhere from the brain and heart, to kidneys and toes. This isn’t a tumour we can cut out, it is a widespread well-hidden assassin that can spring back into action if any copies of itself are left alive anywhere in the body.

To completely wipe the virus out with disinfectant you would have to disinfect every part of your insides. This goes way beyond getting disinfectant into your gut or veins, we’re talking about getting it into the folds of your brain, the tips of your toes, the tiniest fibres of your lungs. Your body is an incredibly dense maze of cells, thousands upon thousands of layers deep, harder to clean than any carpet.

If you drink or inject yourself with disinfectant it could kill you and it won’t even kill all of the virus hanging out in your body. So, just don’t.

Bleach will cook you like an egg.

Household bleach has two main actions: it removes colour from a substance, and it breaks apart the proteins of that substance. This means that when you use it to clean mould off your shower it will strip the colour, kill the mould, and make it look like nothing was ever there (even if there are still bits of bleached mould left behind). This is great when you’re trying to kill bacteria, clean up blood, or disinfect a surface, but the same rules that apply to that mould also apply to our bodies.

When you get bleach on your skin it starts breaking down any proteins it comes into contact with. This kind of accident is common in the home, at some point we’ll probably all get a bit of bleach on our hands while cleaning, and it’s not too big of a deal. The outer layer of your skin is designed to deal with a bit of rough and tumble. The first 30-ish layers of skin are flat, full of keratin proteins, and supported by fats. This is essentially a soft and flexible shell that protects all of our squishy insides. Once the proteins in those outer layers start breaking down they becomes less soft, more rigid, prone to cracking. Then comes the chemical burn.

As an egg is exposed to heat its proteins change shape and unravel. The process of cooking irreparably changes the egg from a translucent runny blob, to a solid opaque lump. Bleach does to you flesh what heat does to the egg, it damages the proteins and causes changes that cannot be undone. This is a chemical burn, and it hurts like hell.

So, let’s follow this through to its inevitable end.

We take that bleach, put it in a syringe, and get it right into the most vulnerable parts of your body: your veins.

As soon as the bleach enters your blood stream it starts to break down the proteins in your blood. This unraveling forces the proteins together into a coagulated lump, blocking off the rest of the vein. All in all this is a good thing, since it stops the bleach from spreading very far down the vein.

At the same time the bleach is eating through the walls of the vein, breaking it open and spreading into the surrounding tissue like a corrosive bruise.

This bruise-like mass will be fizzing and hot as the bleach mixes with fluids, fats, proteins, and sugars in the tissue. The skin will bubble as chlorine gas builds up under your skin. It will burn through your skin, it will burn through your muscle, it will burn through your fat. It will keep on burning until it is too dilute to keep going.

Needless to say, this will be excruciating and is a terrible idea.

And will it even kill the virus? No.

Sure, the cells that have died will be clear of the virus, and the fizzing chemical burn might be ‘clean’ for the moment but, as mentioned above, you would have to melt every cell in your body to be sure it had been rooted out, and there is no way to do that while also remaining alive.

That new open wound will need serious medical attention and will make you susceptible to infection.

So, if not that, what can you do?

The best tactics we have are to take practical precautions and be prepared. Commit to social-distancing, wash your hands, stop touching your face, and seek medical help if you need it.

The bright-side in all of this is that our bodies know what they are doing. If you get sick, your immune system is going to fight for you, and it is so much better than any disinfectant. Your immune system is well adapted to hunt down any variants of the virus and kill it. In 95% of cases the immune system is able to wipe out corona virus in 2 weeks, without any severe complications. If you get sick and you need help there are medical professionals out there who are working tirelessly to help people like you get through this.

We’re in a really scary situation at the moment, and it is hard to feel like you have any control over how this pandemic will affect your life. Sometimes crazy situations will lead us down crazy roads, we will find ourselves considering actions we’d never considered before. Maybe you heard Trump’s comments and you thought “that’s ridiculous” but you also didn’t know why, and the more time went on the more it seemed like a plausible action to take.

But here’s the thing: disinfectant isn’t a treatment. If you put it in your body it will, at best, poison and burn you, at worst it will kill you. In either situation you’ll be putting extra strain on a body and a medical system that are fighting to support life. So wash your hands, put the bleach away, and stay safe out there.

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