By Melanie Mouzoon, M.D., F.A.A.P., F.A.B.M.
Let’s face it, with so much information about the COVID-19 being shared, it’s not always easy to figure out what’s true. Although most of the falsehoods are harmless, not all of them are, which is why I feel it’s important to correct some of the most common myths currently making the rounds.
Myth: COVID-19 is just like influenza.
Both COVID-19 and seasonal flu are highly infectious and transmissible respiratory viruses that are spread from person-to-person by respiratory droplets released by coughing and sneezing. The similarities stop there. For example, COVID-19 is three times more contagious and possibly for a longer period. Unlike the flu, there is no immunity or vaccine against COVID-19, which appears to have a mortality rate that’s 10 times higher than flu.
Myth: COVID-19 is a danger only to people who are 60 and older and/or already sick.
Older people and people with pre-existing medical conditions, such as asthma, diabetes, and heart disease, appear to be more vulnerable to coming severely ill with COVID-19, but people of all ages can be infected by the virus and should take steps to protect themselves by following good hand hygiene and covering up coughs and sneezes.
Myth: All hand sanitizers kill the coronavirus.
Frequent hand washing, which means washing your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water, is the most effective form of hand hygiene to protect against COVID-19. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends hand sanitizer only if soap and water aren’t available. Make sure your hand sanitizer contains at least 60% alcohol and look for “ethyl alcohol" on the label. Avoid products that use benzalkonium chloride as an antiseptic; the CDC has reported that it may be less effective against COVID-19, according to the CDC.
Myth: Once hotter, humid weather arrives, COVID-19 will die off.
It is unknown whether COVID-19 will follow the flu season and disappear during warmer months. From the evidence so far, the COVID-19 virus can be transmitted in all climates, including areas with hot and humid weather. In fact, flu transmits year-round but lessens in the summer because we get out of the house more and we’re not cooped up with others!
Myth: “Social distancing” means stopping all human interactions.
Not all human contact needs to stop. A better description might be “physical distancing.” The goal is to limit the close physical connection, not emotional. We still need food and medications, so staying completely disconnected physically isn’t entirely possible. The CDC, the World Health Organization, and President Donald Trump have issued the following social distancing guidelines: avoid contact with groups of more than a few people; maintain a minimum distance of 6 feet from another person(s); avoid any unnecessary travel, shopping trips, or social visits; quarantine yourself at home for a minimum of 14 days if you’ve been in close contact with someone who’s been diagnosed with COVID-19 or are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms (fever of 100 degrees or higher, chills, dry cough, shortness of breath, sore throat, upper respiratory infection, and loss of smell or taste). Being close to household members is mostly unavoidable, but as a group you can maintain social distance from others such as neighbors.
Myth: Drinking water every 15 minutes will reduce my risk of contracting COVID-19.
Drinking water can help with dehydration, but there’s no evidence it will protect against contracting COVID-19. Gargling warm water and won’t help either. Do not drink bleach or aquarium cleaners!
Myth: Taking a hot bath will prevent me from catching COVID-19.
This not only is false, but a hot bath with extremely hot water can burn you. The best way to protect yourself against COVID-19 is by frequently cleaning your hands and avoiding touching your eyes, mouth, and nose.
Myth: Spraying alcohol or chlorine all over myself will kill COVID-19.
This is false. Spraying such substances can be harmful to mucous membranes in the eyes and mouth. Use alcohol and bleach to kill germs on surfaces and alcohol-based hand sanitizers on your hands only.
Myth: Using a saline nose rinse will prevent COVID-19 infection.
There’s no evidence that regularly rinsing the nose with saline has protected people from infection with the new coronavirus or other respiratory infections.
Myth: Antibiotics can prevent and treat COVID-19.
Antibiotics don’t work against viruses (only bacteria) and COVID-19 is a virus.
Myth: Eating garlic can help prevent COVID-19.
Although garlic is a healthy food, there’s no evidence eating it will prevent COVID-19.
Myth: Pneumonia vaccines will protect against COVID-19.
Vaccines against pneumonia don’t provide protection against COVID-19. Researchers are trying to develop a vaccine for COVID-19, but none exists at the present time. Getting a pneumonia vaccine is recommended for some of the same individuals who are at high risk for COVID-19 to protect them against bacterial pneumonia, which includes those over 65 and younger individuals with many chronic health conditions such as diabetes and asthma.
Myth: Taking vitamin C will help me fight off COVID-19.
While vitamin C can help boost the immune system, research shows that, for most people, taking vitamin C won’t even fight against the common cold.
Myth: Hand dryers kill COVID-19.
No, hand dryers don’t kill the coronavirus. The best way to protect yourself and others from the virus is to wash your hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub.
Myth: You can catch COVID-19 from eating Chinese food.
You cannot catch COVID-19 from eating Chinese food, Chinese people, or goods made in China simply because they are Chinese – only if they are contaminated with the virus, which is a corona virus, not a Chinese virus.
Dr. Melanie Mouzoon is the managing physician for Immunization Practices at Kelsey-Seybold Clinic. She’s also a board-certified Pediatric hospitalist at Kelsey-Seybold’s Woman’s Center and is a fellow of the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine.