In a time when so much is still unknown about the coronavirus, we are understandably eager for information.
Unfortunately, the desire for immediate answers has led to the spread of false remedies and conspiracy theories. Additionally, because COVID-19 is so new, health experts are changing their guidance as they learn more about the virus. What was true at the beginning of the pandemic may not be recommended now.
It’s critical we stick with facts and health guidance; doing so can slow the spread of the virus and keep more people safe. While most of the country is beginning to reopen, the pandemic is anything but over.
Below, find some common myths and some now-outdated recommendations about the coronavirus. (And keep washing your hands.)
The myth: Face masks are useless
There was a lot of guidance surrounding the use of masks when the pandemic first hit North America ― particularly that it was unnecessary to wear one unless you were already sick. But now health experts say face coverings provide veritable protection. Both those infected by the virus and those who are virus-free should wear masks when in public spaces in order to keep everyone safe.
The myth: Face masks are a surefire way to prevent contracting the virus
In other words, don’t expect to only wear a mask and be fine. Other health measures, like frequent hand washing, social distancing and avoiding touching your face can also help reduce the spread.
The myth: Summer weather will kill off the virus
At the start of the pandemic, some experts speculated that the virus could be seasonal and may possibly go dormant in the summer.
However, “it is not yet known whether weather and temperature affect the spread of COVID-19,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Some other viruses, like those that cause the common cold and flu, spread more during cold weather months but that does not mean it is impossible to become sick with these viruses during other months.”
The myth: You’re in the clear if you’ve already had COVID-19
We don’t know if having the virus once provides a person with immunity against getting it again, so it’s important to use the same caution as everyone else.
“We’re still waiting for some of the studies to come out that really tell us for sure that when you’ve had the virus and mounted an antibody to it, that you are protected,” Roger Shapiro, associate professor of immunology and infectious diseases at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said during a May news conference.
“And we can only do that when we get the data from actual studies that show that,” Shapiro continued. “And so that hesitation people have had or the qualification people have made has been we don’t know yet whether having the virus will protect us and for how long. And the general feeling is that there’s a lot of optimism that it will be the case.”
The myth: The virus is lab-made
One of the biggest conspiracies floating around the internet is that the coronavirus was created in a lab rather than evolving in the natural world. New research has debunked this myth: The virus is the result of evolution, not lab engineering. Despite internet rumors, there is no evidence to suggest that this is the case.
The myth: Packages are spreading the virus
As the CDC explains: “In general, because of poor survivability of these coronaviruses on surfaces, there is likely very low risk of spread from products or packaging that are shipped over a period of days or weeks at ambient temperatures.”
The risk of transmission from packages, grocery bags, deliveries and other surfaces is even relatively low, despite concerns that were raised at the beginning of the pandemic. Check out the CDC guidelines for running essential errands — like grocery shopping, banking and getting gas — safely.
The myth: Ingesting bleach kills virus pathogens
No, no, absolutely not, please no.
This myth was borne from comments made by President Donald Trump during a news briefing early in the pandemic. This is not true by any means; introducing bleach or other disinfectants to the body by any means — whether by drinking, injecting or spraying — is incredibly dangerous. Do not do this.
The myth: Children are fine or they cannot contract the virus
As the World Health Organization points out, older people and those with preexisting medical conditions appear to be at higher risk for becoming very sick from the virus. But people of all ages can be infected. That includes children.
In fact, recently there have been cases reported of multisystem inflammatory syndrome occurring in kids who also had COVID-19. “Different body parts can become inflamed, including the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes, or gastrointestinal organs,” according to the CDC.
The myth: Our pets are spreading the virus
A small number of pets have reportedly tested positive for COVID-19, but the risk of animals spreading the virus to humans is considered low, according to the CDC. If someone in your house is sick with the virus, they should isolate from the rest of the household, including animals, according to guidelines.
The myth: Ibuprofen can worsen symptoms
In March, Tylenol suddenly became the reigning pain reliever as word spread that ibuprofen (the name for over-the-counter pain meds like Advil) could increase painful symptoms of COVID-19. There’s no medical evidence that suggests ibuprofen is unsafe for treating coronavirus symptoms. (In fact, some scientists are even testing it as one form of treatment in certain cases.) Even so, it’s best to check with a medical professional before you take anything.
The myth: If you don’t have any symptoms, you’re coronavirus-free
Common symptoms of coronavirus can be similar to the flu, but they also extend beyond that. These include fever or chills, cough, difficulty breathing, fatigue, body aches, headache, loss of taste or smell, sore throat, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.
A person who doesn’t exhibit any of these symptoms can still be infected with the coronavirus and can spread the virus to others. Some cases of COVID-19 are asymptomatic, meaning the patient doesn’t show symptoms or has yet to develop any. Other times, people may be presymptomatic, when they’re not showing any signs of the virus but they have the infection in their system. These people can still spread the virus.
The myth: Drinking alcohol can protect you from the virus
If only. You might have heard that alcohol kills germs, but that’s not what happens after drinking a bunch of wine. There’s no evidence this is true. And, as the WHO stresses, “the harmful use of alcohol increases your risk of health problems.”
The myth: Thermal scanners can detect the virus
Thermal scanners can detect fever. Fever is one symptom of the coronavirus, but many people infected with the virus do not have fevers. Fevers can also be associated with conditions unrelated to the coronavirus.
The myth: Antibiotics can prevent and kill the virus
While antibiotics are successful at treating some health issues, coronavirus is not one of them. Antibiotics work against bacteria, not viruses. (Still, some physicians have prescribed or used antibiotics against COVID-19.)
The myth: 5G networks can spread the virus
This myth became widespread in part because of celebrities like Woody Harrelson and Keri Hilson sharing it on social media. Ever since 5G cellular networks have been proposed, conspiracy theorists have speculated about the effects on human health. The conspiracy has since evolved.
“Some suggest that 5G networks cause radiation, which, in turn, triggers the virus,” Recode reported. “Others float that reports of the novel coronavirus were actually a cover-up for the installation of 5G towers. A few accounts push the idea that 5G and Covid-19 are part of a broader effort to ′depopulate’ Earth.” None of this is true. Viruses can’t travel on radio waves or mobile networks.
The myth: If you can hold your breath for a prolonged period you are virus-free
In March, a Facebook post claimed that if you could hold your breath for more than 10 seconds without coughing or discomfort, you couldn’t have the virus. The self-check guidance went viral, leading many people to try the experiment themselves. But the test is futile. You can’t confirm the coronavirus with a breathing test. The best way to check for the virus is to get tested through a medical lab.
The myth: Taking a hot bath can kill the virus
It cannot. The CDC states that hot water (and extremely hot or cold temperatures in general) cannot kill the coronavirus.
The myth: Hand dryers can kill the virus
Hand dryers cannot kill the virus. There is promising news about some UV light, however. In May, New York’s Metropolitan Transit Agency tested the use of ultraviolet disinfecting technology on subways, and has since decided to expand the program.
Experts are still learning about the novel coronavirus. The information in this story is what was known or available as of press time, but it’s possible guidance around COVID-19 could change as scientists discover more about the virus. Please check the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the most updated recommendations.
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