Separate Fact from Fiction: Bust These COVID-19 Myths

Every public emergency sets the rumor mills afire. With a pandemic like COVID-19 about which little or nothing is known, there are all kinds of misinformation — some tantamount to myths — floating around. Rogue and malicious postings on Facebook, fake news, WhatsApp forwards, even alternate medicine websites are clouding understanding of the nature of the disease, and how it spreads. The situation is such that the World Health Organization (WHO) has had to create a page dedicated to busting these myths. Read this before you fall prey to such myths.

Myth: The climate and the weather dictate the spread of the disease.
Reality: The weather or climate have no bearing on how susceptible you are to the disease, or how the disease will spread. The WHO has this to say, “From the evidence so far, the COVID-19 virus can be transmitted in ALL AREAS, including areas with hot and humid weather.” It is equally erroneous to imagine that snow or cold weather will kill the novel coronavirus. The WHO points out that despite the temperature prevailing outside, the human body’s natural temperature of 36.50 to 370 centigrade stays constant. It also remains a critical factor that winter will occur in different months in the two hemispheres. Therefore, the chances of the COVID-19 thriving somewhere in the world remains a major threat.

Myth: Exposing yourself to the sun or to temperatures higher than 250 C protects you from novel coronavirus.

Reality: You are likelier to suffer from sunburn, exposure to ultraviolet rays, and even getting skin cancer if you stand or sit in the sun for too long. It won’t destroy the coronavirus. However, evidence is gradually emerging that Vitamin D might help you combat the infection better. So, it might be a good idea to get some rays of the rising sun in countries where summer is already in force, or midday sun for about 15 minutes in places where it is still winter.

Myth: Wearing a mask is all the protection I need to prevent getting COVID-19.
Reality: If you have already been infected, a mask will only prevent you from infecting others. However, a mask will be useful in protecting you if you need to visit a place where there are many infected people. You must avoid touching your face, nose, eyes, or mouth after touching any hard surface. The virus spreads through droplets, tiny particles also called aerosols, which escape when an infected person sneezes or coughs; wearing a mask protects you by filtering out the aerosols. Don’t try to adjust the mask after touching any surface without sanitizing your hands. There is no need to bulk buy masks for simply taking an evening walk. However, maintaining social distancing remains critical. The real threat is from silent carriers.

Do this: If you can’t get hold of a surgical mask, make one at home by double folding a piece cut from an old cotton handloom saree or kurta to cover your mouth and nose, and tie it behind your head. Washing hands, raw fruits and vegetables, utensils, and sanitizing surfaces like doors, windows, shelves, tables, cabinets, kitchen countertops and slabs are some ways you can prevent the infection from spreading. If there are difficulties about washing hands regularly with soap or hand wash, use an alcohol based hand sanitizer. It is inadvisable to cook after using a hand sanitizer; so just wash hands thoroughly. Dry your hands thoroughly using a paper towel, or a warm air hand dryer. However, dryers per se don’t prevent infection. All healthcare workers should wear masks and PPEs when interacting with patients and their families. Too many doctors and nurses have already been infected.

Myth: Inhaling steam, gargling, and bathing in very hot water protects you against COVID-19.

Reality: Inhaling steam might damage your respiratory passage. You might also end up with steam burns on your face. Gargling might provide relief from a sore throat. It will neither prevent, nor cure COVID-19. Also, bathing in very hot water will not prevent catching the infection. If you suffer from chronic aches and pains, very warm water might ease the pain.

Myth: Inhaling steam using sea salt and orange peels will cure novel coronavirus. Closely linked with this orange peel theory is that taking Vitamin C prevents COVID-19.

Reality: This is not proven. The WHO also does not recommend it, while pointing out that till date no medicine has been identified as a cure for novel coronavirus. Though Vitamin C has been known to be useful in countering rhinoviruses which often cause common cold, and the usual seasonal influenza; there isn’t sufficient evidence to demonstrate that taking Vitamin C regularly will enable you to ward off the novel coronavirus pathogen. As a good practice, you should eat sufficient helpings of fruits daily to boost your immunity, especially fruits rich in antioxidants and Vitamin C.

Myth: Garlic, ginger, honey, and colloidal silver prevent the novel coronavirus.

Reality: Garlic, ginger, and honey provide symptomatic relief when you are suffering from the common cold. The chances of these boosting your immunity, or curing this disease are very slim. Manufacturers of colloidal silver as a dietary supplement make tall claims of its immunity building and antimicrobial properties which help in healing wounds, warding off infections, and treating cancer, HIV/AIDS, shingles, herpes, eye ailments, and prostatitis. These are not validated by rigorous testing, and it can have some grave irreversible consequences.

Myth: If you get COVID-19, you die, or else are stuck for life. If you fear you have been infected, visit the hospital immediately.

Reality: The real risk is to asymptomatic patients, since they don’t get identified till it is too late. Most patients only require treatment for symptomatic relief, and recover completely with supportive care. WHO suggests first calling the facility closest to you if you have a fever, cough, sore throat, and difficulty in breathing to seek guidance on what would be the most desirable future course of action. This is because you might be unnecessarily expose yourself to diverse infections.

Myth: The novel coronavirus spreads through mosquito bites.

Reality: The WHO rubbishes this claim. It says, “The new coronavirus is a respiratory virus which spreads primarily through droplets generated when an infected person coughs or sneezes, or through droplets of saliva or discharge from the nose.” However, if you live in a mosquito infested area, it makes better sense to use the necessary precautions to add malaria, dengue, and other mosquito transmitted ailments to your woes.

Myth: Drinking alcohol prevents infection.

Reality: There is no scientific proof to substantiate this claim. On the other hand, imbibing alcohol indiscriminately is likelier to aggravate other existing morbidities, or create new ones like kidney damage, or coronary disease.

Myth: Closely allied to this is the claim that spraying alcohol or chlorine all over your body kills the new coronavirus.

Reality: The WHO categorically warns that spraying alcohol or chlorine all over your body could be counterproductive as neither will disinfect any infection which has already entered your body. However, they can damage clothes and mucous membranes by causing dryness, irritation, and even peeling of the skin.

Myth: Drinking gau mutra, and using cow dung to disinfectant will prevent COVID-19.

Reality: On the contrary, you might develop serious complications.

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Content Reviewed by – Asian Hospital Medical Editors