There is a lot of misinformation circulating on social media about the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). These rumours and unapproved pieces of advice can cause physical harm to both you and the people around you. The following myths are just a few of what’s out there, so keep questioning what you read from uncertified sources to avoid being part of the chaos.
1. You can test for coronavirus by holding your breath
A recent social media post falsely claimed that people can find out whether they have coronavirus simply by holding their breath for more than 10 seconds. If they can hold their breath without coughing, the test claims they don't have the virus. However, this test does not work. While in some cases COVID-19 can cause respiratory issues which might make it hard to hold a breath without coughing, this is certainly not true for all cases.
2. Face masks can protect you from coronavirus
Face masks are very important in healthcare settings to prevent the transmission and spread but have not been shown to be of significant benefit outside of those settings - primarily because they need to be worn, removed, changed and disposed of correctly and safely to be of any benefit.
If you are healthy and are not looking after someone who is unwell, there is no need to wear a face mask. Advice for this is changing day-to-day, but the WHO are currently recommending that those who are sick or showing symptoms, or those caring for someone who is unwell, should wear a face mask - but only if they are worn and disposed of safely, in combination with frequent hand washing.
3. Getting COVID-19 is a death sentence
According to the NHS, most cases of COVID-19 are mild, with common symptoms including common symptoms are fever, a dry cough and shortness of breath. According to a study published in February 2020, around 81% of people infected with the coronavirus have mild cases.
4. You can get coronavirus if you eat at a Chinese restaurant
There is no need to avoid buying Chinese food or beer, despite fears on social media. However, the virus is now circulating widely within the UK so health officials say that reducing social contact, by working at home and avoiding restaurants in general - as well as pubs and clubs, is a good idea. However, most businesses are now offering home delivery service in response to this advice in order to prevent people from gathering in their restaurants.
5. If you have coronavirus, “you’ll know”
Early on, infected people may show no symptoms at all and some people may never show symptoms in which case they might not realise they have had it. COVID-19 can cause a wide range of symptoms, many of which appear in other respiratory illnesses such as the flu and the common cold. Common symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough and difficulty breathing, and rarer symptoms include dizziness, nausea, vomiting and a runny nose. In severe cases, the disease can progress into a serious pneumonia-like illness.
6. Young people and children can’t get coronavirus
While older people may be more at risk of infection because their immune systems may not be as strong as those of younger people, children can still get coronavirus. The bottom line is that anyone can get coronavirus, there is no 'one' age group that are immune to it. The only difference is that the severity of symptoms is higher in older people.
7. Drinking water or fluids will flush out the virus
Staying hydrated can help keep your immune system strong and it is important to stay hydrated when you are running a fever, are more physically active or have diarrhea or vomiting. However, there is no evidence from any other respiratory viruses that drinking water will flush the virus into your stomach where it will be killed, as some have suggested.
8. Coronavirus will go away in warm weather
From the evidence so far, the COVID-19 virus can be transmitted in all areas, including areas with hot and humid weather.
9. Coronavirus can be transmitted by post
Public Health England (PHE) has advised that people receiving parcels are not at risk of contracting the coronavirus. From experience with other coronaviruses, we know that these types of viruses don’t survive long on objects, such as letters or parcels.
10. Recreational drugs can cure coronavirus
Social media posts have suggested that marijuana and cocaine can cure coronavirus. There is no evidence behind these claims. The World Health Organization (WHO) lists smoking as one of the things that are not effective against the virus and might cause harm. Smoking, and smoking-related disease is widely thought to be a risk factor in developing severe symptoms of COVID-19.
11. Antibiotics can cure coronavirus
Antibiotics kill bacteria and do not work against viruses, but researchers are testing antiviral drugs that might disrupt viral proteins and stop the infection.
12. Coronavirus was formed in a lab in China
No evidence suggests that the virus is man-made. Local health officials reported several cases of pneumonia among a group of people linked to a wholesale market in Wuhan, China in December 2019, which was the start of COVID-19.
13. UV light can kill coronavirus
UV sterilisation lamps do not sterilise your hands or other parts of your skin and may in fact cause irritation.
14. Inhaling bleach fumes can kill coronavirus
Bleach can be used to clean surfaces in your home if it is properly diluted (CDC) but will not sterilise your body or kill the virus and will harm you if you inhale it. (WHO)
15. Saunas can kill coronavirus
There is no evidence to suggest saunas can kill coronavirus.
16. Vitamin C, sesame oil or garlic will prevent transmission
There is "no evidence" that these products can ward off coronavirus (COVID-19) and there is no known preventive treatment for COVID-19. The World Health Organization notes that while researchers are pursuing possible vaccines against coronavirus, no vaccine is currently available.
17. Rinsing your nose with saline will prevent transmission
Based on data from other respiratory viruses, salt-water would not be expected to work.
The bottom line:
The most important thing to note is that a vaccine has not yet been approved and released for this virus. Currently the approved methods of prevention include: washing your hands thoroughly and more frequently than usual with soap and water or when this is not possible, using hand sanitiser, cleaning frequently-used surfaces where possible and appropriate using disinfectant products, covering your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing and making sure you wash your hands afterwards and always washing your hands before eating or handling food.
If you think you may have the virus, the only available treatments for coronavirus (COVID-19) are supportive, which means they are not able to directly tackle the virus but rather support the body as it tries to fight it off. These supportive measures include medicines which ameliorate the symptoms of the virus, such as paracetamol for fever, fluids for rehydration and various ways of delivering oxygen where respiratory function is compromised, from simple nasal prongs and masks to mechanical ventilation on intensive care units (ITU).
If you are worried about any of your symptoms, or have an urgent query - you can contact the NHS here.
Feature image: istock/filadendron