Living in the age of the internet often feels like double-edged sword. Yes, there’s more information accessible to us, literally at our fingertips, than ever before. That also means that misinformation is just as readily available. From the guy who hung around your local high school who “sees through the media hysteria” to your aunt on Facebook sharing well-meaning but misguided posts about how stomach acids kill coronavirus, there is a ton of bullsh*t floating around. And look, we’re all scared enough as it is (I feel confident speaking for all of us when I say that). The last thing any of us need is some fake rumor that’s basically the 2020 equivalent of a chain email going around to terrify the sh*t out of all of us. So to cut through the B.S. and get to the bottom of what’s real and what’s not regarding coronavirus concerns, we spoke to Dr. Mikhail Varshavski—or as you may know him on Instagram, Dr. Mike.
Myth 1: If You Can Hold Your Breath For 10 Seconds, You Don’t Have Coronavirus
This one seems legit, because it uses a bunch of medical terms. The original copypasta goes something like this: “Take a deep breath and hold your breath for more than 10 seconds. If you complete it successfully without coughing, without discomfort, stiffness or tightness, etc., it proves there is no (COVID-19 caused) Fibrosis in the lungs, basically indicates no infection.” Though it sounds like it’s based in science, Dr. Mike says this test is “completely untrue.” While COVID-19 is a respiratory infection, pulmonary fibrosis is, according to Mayo Clinic, “a lung disease that occurs when lung tissue becomes damaged and scarred. This thickened, stiff tissue makes it more difficult for your lungs to work properly.” The problem? Fibrosis can take months if not years to develop, and doctors don’t know if COVID-19 causes fibrosis at all yet.
Myth 2: Gargling With Salt Water Will Kill The Virus
The crazy thing about this myth is that I saw it passed around a WhatsApp group I’m in, with the person who sent it claiming to have gotten it from their sister who is a chemist at Stanford. (Yeah, sorry, I just called you out.) In the group chat, I brought up that there is basically no way this can be true (think about it: would countries be shutting down over a virus that could be killed with a little salt water?) but nobody seemed to back me up. Well, you don’t have to take my word for it, because according to Dr. Mike, this so-called cure is absolutely “not true”.
Myth 3: Drinking Water Regularly Will Push The Virus Into Your Stomach And Kill The Virus
The logic here is that your stomach acids kill coronavirus, which again, is just not the case. Really think if a global pandemic would be happening and whole countries would be on lockdown if the solution was to just drink more water. Dr. Mike says, “Look, staying well hydrated is important to your health, but every 15 minutes is not a rule that anyone has recommended.” University Of Maryland’s Dr. Faheem Younus similarly debunked this myth on Twitter, saying the “Virus may gain entry via throat but it penetrates into the host cells. You can’t wash it away. Excessive water will make you run to the toilet.” So, drink water because it may make you feel less sluggish, improve your skin, and you should just be doing it anyway, but not because you think it will cure coronavirus.
Myth #5: Coronavirus lives in the throat. So drink lots of water so the virus is pushed into the stomach where the acid will kill it.
Virus may gain entry via throat but it penetrates into the host cells. You can’t wash it away. Excessive water will make you run to the toilet.
— Faheem Younus, MD (@FaheemYounus) March 17, 2020
Myth 4: Ibuprofen Makes Coronavirus Worse
This one is tough because it came from an actual health organization and not some random dude on Facebook. Dr. Mike explains, “The French ministry of health recently came out and mentioned something about not taking ibuprofen and they said we shouldn’t be taking this because it actually makes the virus symptoms worse.” The French health minister, Olivier Véran, had tweeted that people should not take NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), a category of pain reliever/fever reducers that includes ibuprofen, because some French patients had experienced serious side effects.
🏥 #COVID2019 Les #pharmacies sont et resteront ouvertes tout au long de la crise sanitaire.
💊 Il n’y a pas de pénurie de #paracetamol.
L’ANSM rappelle les règles de bon usage. Inutile et dangereux pour la santé de faire des stocks chez soi !
— Olivier Véran (@olivierveran) March 17, 2020
The problem, though, as Dr. Mike says, “that has not been proven to be the case in good quality controlled studies. The WHO said that they’re not telling people to stop taking it, meaning that they’re saying, if you need to take this medicine, if your doctor prescribed it, you can still safely take it.” As of March 18, the WHO was not recommending against taking ibuprofen.
A: Based on currently available information, WHO does not recommend against the use of of ibuprofen. pic.twitter.com/n39DFt2amF
— World Health Organization (WHO) (@WHO) March 18, 2020
Dr. Mike adds that the tricky part with this is that “we don’t know yet if by taking ibuprofen you develop worse symptoms or because you happen to have worse symptoms, you’re taking more ibuprofen. So, if your doctor recommends taking ibuprofen, please do take it. If you’re able to take Tylenol, that’s always an option.”
And as a final takeaway, Dr. Mike warns, “there are some marketing companies that are out there trying to tout immune boosting products of vitamins, minerals that will essentially cure, prevent treat COVID- 19; none of that exists.” Don’t waste your money; if there was really a cure for COVID-19, the WHO and CDC would be the ones to break the news (and not, say, the girl from your high school who sells essential oils on Facebook).
We’re sure you have a lot more questions about COVID-19, and we asked Dr. Mike pretty much all of them. Watch our entire video with him below.
Images: WHO, olivierveran, FaheemYounus / Twitter