Joanne Cassidy, clinical occupational health manager at BHSF, highlights coronavirus myths that have been escalated online and why people must get their information from reliable sources.
The internet and social media give us amazing access to information, but also a lot of misinformation. With the ongoing coronavirus epidemic, unfortunately, misinformation on the disease has been flooding the internet.
This is why trusting health advice from experts now has never been more vital. It could be the difference between life and death.
Please be careful when using the internet for information around coronavirus. Coronavirus misinformation is dangerous. Think before you share content.
Here are six myths that have been circulating online.
There have been many posts on Facebook advising people that one way to prevent infection is by eating garlic.
The World Health Organization (WHO) say that while it is ‘a healthy food that may have some antimicrobial properties’, there’s no evidence that eating garlic can protect people from coronavirus.
In lots of cases, these kinds of remedies aren’t harmful in themselves, as long as they aren’t preventing you from following evidence-based medical advice.
We know, in general, that eating fruit and vegetables and drinking water is good for staying healthy.
However, there is no evidence specific foods will help fight this particular virus.
YouTuber Jordan Sather has claimed a ‘Miracle Mineral Supplement’ (MMS) can wipe out coronavirus. It contains chlorine dioxide, a bleaching agent.
Sather and others promoted the substance before the coronavirus outbreak. In January 2020, he tweeted that, “not only is chlorine dioxide (aka MMS) an effective cancer cell killer, it can wipe out coronavirus too.”
Last year, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned about the dangers of drinking MMS. Health authorities in other countries have also issued alerts about it.
The FDA said it “is not aware of any research showing that these products are safe or effective for treating any illness.” It warns that drinking them can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and symptoms of severe dehydration.
Homemade hand sanitiser
There have been many reports of shortages of hand sanitiser gel, as washing your hands is one key way to prevent coronavirus spreading. As reports of the shortages emerged in Italy, so did recipes for homemade gel on social media.
However, these recipes, were for a disinfectant better suited for cleaning surfaces and, as scientists pointed out, not suitable for use on skin.
Alcohol-based hand gels usually contain emollients, which make them gentler on the skin. They also usually contain 60-70% of alcohol content. Professor Sally Bloomfield, from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, doesn’t believe effective products for sanitising hands can be made at home – even vodka only contains 40% alcohol.
The use of colloidal silver was promoted on US televangelist Jim Bakker’s show. Colloidal silver is tiny particles of metal suspended in a liquid. A guest on the show claimed the solution kills some strains of coronavirus within 12 hours (while admitting it hadn’t yet been tested on Covid-19).
The idea that it could be an effective treatment for coronavirus has been widely shared on Facebook.
US health authorities have said there’s no evidence this type of silver solution is effective for any health condition. More importantly, it could cause serious side effects including kidney damage and seizures. Silver is not a metal that has any function in the human body.
Drinking water every 15 minutes
One post which is doing the rounds on Facebook, quotes a Japanese doctor who recommends drinking water every 15 minutes to flush out any virus that might have entered the mouth.
Professor Trudie Lang from the University of Oxford believes there’s “no biological mechanism” that supports the idea you can just wash a respiratory virus down into your stomach and kill it5.
Infections like coronavirus enter the body via the respiratory tract when you breathe in. Some of them might go into your mouth, but even drinking water constantly isn’t going to prevent you from catching the virus. Nonetheless, drinking water and staying hydrated is generally good medical advice.
There have been suggestions that heat kills the virus, for example, drinking hot water and taking hot baths.
One post, falsely attributed to Unicef, claims drinking hot water and exposure to the sun will kill the virus, and says ice cream is to be avoided. Having a hot bath or drinking hot liquids won’t change your actual body temperature.
We don’t know yet whether heat has an impact on coronavirus. Once the virus is in your body, there’s no way of killing it, your body has to fight it off.
Washing bed linen or towels at 60 Celsius is a good idea, as this can kill any viruses in the fabric.