Common Myths about Coronavirus Explained

March 3, 2020

Clinical Contributors to this Story

William Fleischman, M.D. contributes to topics such as Emergency Medicine.

Updated: 4/24/2020

Claim: Warm weather will kill the virus.

It’s unclear. We are hopeful that this new coronavirus will dissipate similarly to SARS. The idea is that through social distancing and isolation, the virus will be controlled and eventually die out.

Overall, practicing good hygiene and social distancing are the most important things you can do at this time. If you’re concerned, the CDC offers several tools to help determine if you’re at risk of being impacted by COVID-19.

Claim: Disinfectants can help treat infection.

Disinfectants cannot be used to treat infection in a person. Do not consume, inject, inhale or otherwise try to use any disinfectant (including bleach, Lysol, etc) product to treat an infection. This can be extremely hazardous to your health.

Claim: Large amounts of UV light can help treat infection.

Ultraviolet (UV) light are used to kill bacteria and viruses on surfaces and on objects, but cannot be used to treat infection in a person. UV light can damage skin, cause burns, and longer term can cause premature aging of skin as well as skin cancer. They should not be used to sterilize hands or other areas of skin.

Claim: You can give COVID-19 to your pets.

While we are still learning everyday about this new coronavirus, it appears that it can spread from people to animals in some situations, according to the CDC. However, as of now, there’s no evidence that animals play a significant role in spreading the coronavirus.

If you have COVID-19, treat your animals as you would anyone else and avoid contact until you are no longer ill.

Claim: COVID-19 will continue to spread.

We should expect to see more cases of coronavirus. However, social distancing has already led to dramatic decreases in the growth of new cases. If you use common sense precautions like frequent hand washing and social distancing, you can lower the risk of infecting yourself or others around you.

Claim: COVID-19 spreads faster than the flu.

It’s not yet clear if COVID-19 spreads faster than the flu, however both do spread quite quickly. Like other viruses, coronavirus is spread through droplets that come from the respiratory tract when someone coughs or sneezes.

Claim: Everyone should wear a mask when in public places.

Initial public health guidance was that masks should only be worn by front-line workers and would not be helpful for most people. But this guidance changed after further studies have shown transmission by people who had no symptoms of infection.

The CDC now recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies).

Of course, continue to also practice good hygiene: wash hands frequently, and don’t touch your mouth, nose and eyes.

Claim: Using saline nasal spray will help prevent COVID-19

There is no evidence that regularly rinsing the nose with a saline solution or spray protects people from COVID-19 infection.

There is some limited evidence that regularly rinsing nose with saline can help people recover more quickly from the common cold. However, regularly rinsing the nose has not been shown to prevent viral respiratory infections.

Claim: If you can hold your breath for ten seconds without discomfort, you don’t have COVID-19. 

The fact is, many people infected with COVID-19 will have minor or no symptoms at all and will easily be able to hold their breath for 10 seconds. The only way to know for sure if you have COVID-19 is to get tested.

Claim: Home remedies that include garlic, chlorine, warm water, or lemon juice can help prevent or treat COVID-19 infection. 

There is no evidence that such remedies are effective against COVID-19 or any other virus.

Claim: Washing skin with bleach or alcohol is needed to prevent or treat COVID-19 infection. 

Soap and water are all that is needed to cleanse the skin of viruses and bacteria. Using harsh chemicals such as bleach (chlorine) or alcohol can cause harm both to skin and when vapors are inhaled.

Claim: Preparations that include silver, such as colloidal silver, can help prevent or treat COVID-19 infection.

While silver does have some natural antibiotic properties, there is no evidence that collioidal silver or other silver-containing products are effective against COVID-19 virus or any other virus infection. Silver can be toxic to the brain and kidneys.

Claim: Taking ibuprofen while infected with COVID-19 will make the condition worse.

There is currently no evidence of patients with negative effects from using ibuprofen while infected with COVID-19. The World Health Organization says it is consulting with physicians treating the patients and are not aware of reports of any negative effects, beyond the usual ones that limit its use in certain populations. Those include:

  • have a history of a strong, unpleasant reaction (hypersensitivity) to aspirin or other NSAIDs
  • have a current or recent stomach ulcer, or you have had one in the past
  • have severe heart failure
  • have severe liver disease
  • are taking low-dose aspirin for the prevention of cardiovascular disease

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The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.