Coronavirus: Misconception and facts

Christie Syndor
Sunday, 3 May 2020

With the rapid spread of coronavirus, there's a lot of misinformation surrounded on the topic. We've compiled most of the pervasive misconceptions about the virus.


COVID-19 is an infectious disease that is spread primarily through respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes. It is not airborne as these droplets are too heavy to hang in the air and therefore, quickly fall on surfaces or floors. You can get infected by breathing in the virus when in close contact with someone with the virus or touching contaminated surfaces and then your mouth, face and eyes. 

With no current known cure, many false and misleading health advice has been spreading on social media. Here are some misconceptions that are doing the rounds -

Misconception 1: Fasting increases the risk of catching or dying of COVID 19

No, this is a misconception. 

Ramadan, the month-long religious holiday, has started this week. Many are wondering if the required fasting might pose a health risk. Faheem Younus, Chief of Infectious Diseases from the University of Maryland UCH, took to Twitter to clarify this. He tweeted saying, "COVID goes to the respiratory system regardless of how full or empty the stomach is; fasting won't change its infectivity. If already sick (with anything) don't fast." 

Misconception 2: Heat, inhaling steam or blow-drying your nose can prevent or kill the coronavirus

While there have been reports of the virus getting killed by heat, however, that is about medical professionals using extreme heat to clean their tools. This is a misconception.

Inhaling steam only helps during any respiratory illness, such as cough, nasal congestion, and chest congestion. However, this is merely symptomatic relief and not a treatment for any viral infection. Using a blow dryer anywhere near your face will only risk developing more serious complications as it would cause superficial damage to your eye, nose, and mouth lining by trying to breathe in hot air, which promptly damages your first line of defence against infection. 

Misconception 3: Everyone infected by the COVID 19 dies

This statement is a misconception. Many patients across the globe who were tested positive for the virus have been treated.

A WHO study in February of more than 70,000 patients in China infected with the virus found that a larger percentage of people with pre-existing conditions survived. Not everyone with the virus doesn't die; it's more about getting the right treatment at the right time. 

Misconception 4: You can protect yourself by drinking/gargling bleach and other chemicals.

There is no evidence from WHO and experts backing this claim. However, the consumption of such chemicals can cause diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting, and symptoms of severe dehydration. 

Basic protective measures against the coronavirus can help reduce the risk of infection. 

Misconception 5: You must disinfect vegetables before cooking them

This is a misconception. Disinfecting or washing your fruits and vegetables with soap can cause stomach upset, gastrointestinal distress, nausea, vomiting and severe dehydration. 

Click here, to read UNICEF's food hygiene and healthy eating tips during the pandemic outbreak. 

Misconception 6: Yoga is the cure

Is there any truth to this cure? Straightforwardly, no. Yoga can undoubtedly lead to a healthy life but not a defence or cure to coronavirus. One should immediately consult an expert in case of infection. 

Harvard Medical School has published an article on 'Coping with Coronavirus Anxiety' which recommends yoga as one way to help with anxiety during this pandemic and not a cure or a defence.

Misconception 7: Consuming Gomutra/cow dung can prevent or cure the virus

Doctors all around the world are looking for a cure to the coronavirus; however, false rumours on the topic of cow urine consumption are circulating in India. Experts have repeatedly asserted that there is no evidence proving that the consumption of cow dung and cow urine can kill or prevent a person from getting the virus. 

Misconception 8: To protect the family members it's better to cremate (instead of burying) the body

Current advice from the WHO is to avoid large gatherings. Cremation or burial is not the point. However, one should take the necessary precautions while taking care of the deceased since the main driver for transmission of the virus is droplets.

Misconception 9: Taking Ibuprofen worsens symptoms

WHO has taken to their twitter to clear this myth indicating that there is no problem of taking ibuprofen while having COVID-19 symptoms.

Misconception 10: Wear gloves, the virus penetrate through skin

This will only work if you change and wash your gloves methodically like you wash and sanitise your hands. People who wear gloves will still tend to touch their faces which will increase the risk of getting the virus; you might not wear them at all. Basic advice would be to wash your hands or use sanitiser.

Misconception 11: 5G helps to spread the virus

This is a hoax. Viruses cannot travel on radio waves. India doesn't have 5G networks, and the spread of the virus has been rapid. COVID-19 spreads through respiratory droplets by coming in contact with a contaminated surface or someone infected.

Misconception 12: You will get pneumonia if you have COVID-19

A misconception that is not entirely accurate. While talking with CNN, Dr Robert Legare Atmar, an infectious disease specialist at Baylor College of Medicine, said that the symptoms would defer from person to person. Further, clarifying that not everyone with the virus will have pneumonia, and not all patients will have a sore throat. 

Misconception 13: BCG vaccine protects people against coronavirus

WHO does not recommend BCG vaccination (Bacille Calmette-Guérin vaccine) for prevention of novel coronavirus or COVID-19.  

Misconception 14: Holding your breath for 10 seconds proves you don't have the virus

This 'self-check' test is a misconception. Experts say that people who are infected with the virus can also hold their breath for 10 seconds while many elderly without the virus won't be able to do it.

Faheem Younus, Chief of Infectious disease has taken to twitter to bust coronavirus myths. Click here, to read the thread.


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