Coronavirus isemerging in more countries around the world and there’s currently noknown cure. Unfortunately that hasn’t stopped a slew of healthadvice, ranging from useless but relatively harmless, to downrightdangerous.
We’ve been looking atsome of the most widespread claims being shared online, and what thescience really says.
1. Garlic as Health Advice
Lots of posts thatrecommend eating garlic to prevent infection are being shared onFacebook.
The WHO (World HealthOrganization) says that while it is “a healthy food that mayhave some antimicrobial properties”, there’s no evidence thateating garlic can protect people from the new coronavirus.
In lots of cases,these kinds of remedies aren’t harmful in themselves, as long as theyaren’t preventing you from following evidence-based medical advice.But they have the potential to be.
The South ChinaMorning Post reported a story of a woman who had to receive hospitaltreatment for a severely inflamed throat after consuming 1.5kg of rawgarlic.
We know, in general,that eating fruit and vegetables and drinking water can be good forstaying healthy. However, there is no evidence specific foods willhelp fight this particular virus.
2. Miracle Minerals as Health Advice
YouTuber JordanSather, who has many thousands of followers across differentplatforms, has been claiming that a “miracle mineralsupplement”, called MMS, can “wipe out” coronavirus.
It contains chlorinedioxide – a bleaching agent.
Sather and others promoted the substance even before the coronavirus outbreak, and in January he tweeted that, “not only is chlorine dioxide (aka MMS) an effective cancer cell killer, it can wipe out coronavirus too”.
3. Home-Made Hand Sanitizer as a Health Advice
There have been many reports of shortages of hand sanitizer gel, as washing your hands is one key way to prevent spread of the virus.
As reports of theshortages emerged in Italy, so did recipes for home-made gel onsocial media.
But these recipes,alleged dupes for one of the country’s most popular brands, were fora disinfectant better suited for cleaning surfaces and, as scientistspointed out, not suitable for use on skin.
Alcohol-based handgels usually also contain emollients, which make them gentler onskin, on top of their 60-70% alcohol content.
Professor Sally Bloomfield, at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, says she does not believe you could make an effective product for sanitizing hands at home – even vodka only contains 40% alcohol.
For cleaning surfaces,the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says mostcommon household disinfectants should be effective.
4. Drinkable Silver as a wrong Health Advice
The use of colloidalsilver was promoted on US televangelist Jim Bakker’s show. Colloidalsilver is tiny particles of the metal suspended in liquid. A guest onthe show claimed the solution kills some strains of coronaviruswithin 12 hours (while admitting it hadn’t yet been tested onCovid-19).
The idea that it couldbe an effective treatment for coronavirus has been widely shared onFacebook, particularly by “medical freedom” groups whichare deeply suspicious of mainstream medical advice.
Proponents ofcolloidal silver claim it can treat all kinds of health conditions,act as an antiseptic, and state it helps the immune system. There aresome occasional uses of silver in healthcare, for example in bandagesapplied to wounds, but that doesn’t mean it’s effective to consume.
There’s clear advice from the US health authorities that 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, seizures and argyria – a condition that makes your skin turn blue.
They say that, unlikeiron or zinc, silver is not a metal that has any function in thehuman body.
Some of thosepromoting the substance for general health on social media have foundtheir posts now generate a pop-up warning from Facebook’sfact-checking service.
5. Drinking Water every 15 Minutes is a wrong Health Advice
One post, copied andpasted by multiple Facebook accounts, quotes a “Japanese doctor”who recommends drinking water every 15 minutes to flush out any virusthat might have entered the mouth. A version in Arabic has beenshared more than 250,000 times.
Professor Trudie Langat the University of Oxford says there is “no biologicalmechanism” that would support the idea that you can just wash arespiratory virus down into your stomach and kill it.
Infections likecoronaviruses enter the body via the respiratory tract when youbreathe in. Some of them might go into your mouth, but evenconstantly drinking water isn’t going to prevent you from catchingthe virus.
Nonetheless, drinkingwater and staying hydrated is generally good medical advice.
6. Heat and Avoiding Ice Cream
There are lots ofvariations of the advice suggesting heat kills the virus, fromrecommending drinking hot water to taking hot baths, or usinghairdryers.
One post, copied and pasted by dozens of social media users in different countries – and falsely attributed to Unicef – claims that drinking hot water and exposure to the sun will kill the virus, and says ice cream is to be avoided.
Read Also: US Infections Pass 1000 as Deaths rise to 31
Charlotte Gornitzka,who works for Unicef on coronavirus misinformation, says: “Arecent erroneous online message… purporting to be a Unicefcommunication appears to indicate that avoiding ice cream and othercold foods can help prevent the onset of the disease. This is, ofcourse, wholly untrue.”
We know the flu virusdoesn’t survive well outside the body during the summer, but we don’tyet know how heat impacts the new coronavirus.
Trying to heat yourbody or expose yourself to the sun – presumably to make itinhospitable to the virus – is completely ineffective, according toProf Bloomfield. Once the virus is in your body, there’s no way ofkilling it – your body just has to fight it off.
Outside the body, “toactively kill the virus you need temperatures of around 60 degrees[Celsius]”, says Professor Bloomfield – far hotter than anybath.
Washing bed linen ortowels at 60C is a good idea, as this can kill any viruses in thefabric. But it’s not a good option for washing your skin.
And having a hot bathor drinking hot liquids won’t change your actual body temperature,which remains stable unless you are already ill.