The coronavirus pandemic has generated endless online rumors and fake news, promising false cures and causing panic and uncertainty. As a medical microbiologist, I see them everywhere. Here is the list of fake news and cures circulating online that you need to avoid under any circumstances, followed by the truth about a “cure.” Share this with someone who needs to know.
COVID-19 is a new virus and we don’t have immunity developed against this disease. There are many rumors spread online stating that consuming vitamins and mineral supplements can prevent disease, but most people don’t realize there’s no real advantage of taking more than the recommended dose. Overdosing vitamins and minerals may give you really bad side effects. Too much vitamin C could cause nausea, diarrhea and stomach cramps. Too much selenium could lead to hair loss, fatigue, gastrointestinal upset, and even mild nerve damage. Make sure you take a recommended dose of supplements and vitamins and you eat lots of fruits and vegetables, which are the best sources of vitamins to support your immune system.
This is one of the most dangerous pieces of advice circulating online, which can cause more harm than you can imagine. The maximum recommended intake of iodine is 1100 mcg per day for adults and 200 to 300 mcg per day for children up to the age of 8 years. Iodine has a massive impact on your thyroid. Too much iodine can lead to goiter and thyroid disfunction, thyroiditis and even thyroid cancer. For this reason, it is important to speak to your doctor before taking any iodine supplements.
A YouTube video with nearly a million viewers dangerously advises that inhaling hot air from a hairdryer is a good cure for coronavirus. The virus attacks cells in your lungs, which are supposed to keep your lungs moist and healthy. By using a hairdryer, you make your respiratory ways even drier what may deteriorate your condition.
On March 9, the FDA issued warning statements to seven companies promoting silver, informing them to stop selling products they claimed cure the coronavirus. Colloidal silver has never been tested on COVID-19 and there are no publications up to date confirming its benefits. In fact, colloidal silver can be very dangerous to your health. It can permanently turn your skin a bluish-grey and cause poor absorption of certain drugs and antibiotics, according to the National Centre for Complementary and Integrative Health.
They smell nice and have lots of benefits but there is no evidence suggesting that essential oils can help to prevent or cure coronavirus infection. The warning statement against use of essential oils for COVID-19 was also issued recently to stop companies from selling these products as a cure for infection.
The widespread claim suggesting that drinking hot water will kill the virus is false. If it was true then we wouldn’t have this pandemic as all countries with the highest number of cases have hot water. Chinese drink plenty of hot tea, but they didn’t manage to stop the virus spread. The most alarming claim is that drinking water every 15 minutes will wash coronavirus “down through your throat and into the stomach. Once there, your stomach acid will kill all the virus.” As mentioned above, COVID-19 attacks your respiratory system—not your digestive system. It is vital to drink plenty of liquids especially when you are ill to keep your body hydrated and your mucus membranes moist, but hot water is not a cure for coronavirus.
Rumors on social media that alcohol cures coronavirus contributed to many deaths in Iran. At least 194 people have died and more than 1,000 were poisoned since March 6 because they consumed bootleg alcohol. Alcohol consumption doesn’t cure COVID-19 infection. Moreover, it can impair your immune system, make you much weaker and prone to infection and when you are ill, it can worsen your condition.
Bleach-based solutions are poisonous and they are not an effective measure against COVID-19. They are an effective money-spinner for the sellers, who falsely market it as a cure for a variety conditions including coronavirus.
Several professionals and corporations are coming out with diets to “cure” Coronavirus. A “three-day diet” chart is circulating online to strengthen the body up to the extent that it makes immune from COVID-19. The WHO recommends healthy food—a diet in fresh fruits and vegetables, lean proteins and healthy fats will boost your immune system—but has not prescribed any food chart for patients to treat the disease.
Antibiotics are designed to cure bacterial infections. They don’t cure viral infections. They can actually make them worse. There are no antibiotics against any viral disease in the world. The novel coronavirus is a virus and, therefore, antibiotics should not be used as a means of prevention or treatment.
To be clear: There are no effective and specific treatments for COVID-19. There are, however, reports coming from China stating that anti-malaria drugs may be effective to treat coronavirus, which is what led President Trump to proclaim it could be the solution.
In order to prove it, we need randomized, controlled clinical trials involving a large number of patients to assess safety and effectiveness of treatment. This may take many months before such a treatment will be established and approved.
There isn’t one—yet. Before you share any information, make sure you verify it. Rely only on credible sources such as CDC advice, medical publications published in scientific journals or information provided by your local authorities. Avoid online videos form pseudo-doctors giving you advice on how to prevent infection or cure it. Consider whether you are helping by sharing the information. By stopping the spread of fake news, you can help stop the spread of the virus itself. Start by sharing this story.
And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don’t miss these 17 Coronavirus Mistakes You Don’t Know You’re Making.