The COVID-19 pandemic has created a seemingly endless list of tips to follow to stay safe, but there are just as many mistruths and myths about coronavirus out there. Washing one’s hands and limiting contact with as many people as possible (AKA social distancing) are still the best ways to both stay healthy and not spread the virus. But a stubborn amount of misinformation is spreading just as fast as COVID-19 itself.
To help you stay educated, the World Health Organization (WHO) and numerous other reputable medical institutions, such as Johns Hopkins Medicine, are debunking the myths surrounding COVID-19. Here are the 15 biggest ones you need to stop believing.
1Myth: There’s a coronavirus vaccine out there.
There is no vaccine for the coronavirus currently available. According to the experts at Johns Hopkins: “There is no vaccine for the new coronavirus right now. Scientists have already begun working on one but developing a vaccine that is safe and effective in human beings will take many months.”
How long exactly? According to Anthony Fauci, MD, the head of National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases, 12 to 18 months. Fauci said in an Instagram Live interview with NBA star Steph Curry that the first phase of vaccine testing takes three to four months and the second takes eight months, totaling a year to a year and a half.
“The first thing you’ve got to do is make sure it’s safe. When you find out it’s safe and that it induces the kind of response you want it to, then you do it in a lot of people,” Fauci said. “The first trial is, like, 45 people. Then you go into hundreds, if not thousands, of people. That’s what takes the extra eight months… If we really push, we hope that we will know by the time we get into next winter whether or not we have something that works.”
2Myth: COVID-19 was deliberately created and released by people.
As those at Johns Hopkins plainly state, this myth is 100-percent false. “Viruses can change over time,” the experts continue. “Occasionally, a disease outbreak happens when a virus that is common in an animal such as a pig, bat, or bird undergoes changes and passes to humans. This is likely how the new coronavirus came to be.”
3Myth: If you can hold your breath for 10 seconds, you don’t have coronavirus.
Despite what you may have seen on social media, being able to hold your breath for 10 seconds or more without coughing or feeling discomfort does not mean you don’t have COVID-19 or any other lung disease.
According to WHO, “The best way to confirm if you have the virus producing COVID-19 disease is with a laboratory test. You cannot confirm it with this breathing exercise, which can even be dangerous.”
4Myth: Ordering products from China could give you COVID-19.
COVID-19 is mainly spread through liquid droplets. So while it’s technically possible that a product ordered from China could house a virus-infected bit of liquid, the odds of that happening are almost impossible.
“I don’t think we need to get completely obsessed about packages that come in, because those types of surfaces… the virus might live there for a very short time,” Fauci told Trevor Noah on the Mar. 26 episode of Noah’s at-home The Daily Show. “But people say, ‘Should I get a package from a grocery store that says, “Made in China”?’ I wouldn’t worry about that. That’s not the issue.”
5Myth: A change in temperature can kill coronavirus.
According to WHO, “There is no reason to believe that cold weather can kill the new coronavirus or other diseases.” And they also note, “you can catch COVID-19, no matter how sunny or hot the weather is.”
“The virology of COVID-19 does not diminish in warm temperatures,” Rocio Salas-Whalen, MD, of New York Endocrinology previously told Best Life. “Although the virus may have a seasonal cycle, it is not reasonable to expect a huge decline in transmission due to warmer weather alone. We see the largest decrease in infections when people refrain from being in locations with poor ventilation and/or large crowds.”
6Myth: Taking a hot bath will protect you against coronavirus.
There may be relaxing benefits to a hot bath, but it won’t keep you from contracting coronavirus. “Taking a hot bath will not prevent you from catching COVID-19,” WHO asserts. “Your normal body temperature remains around 36.5°C to 37°C, regardless of the temperature of your bath or shower.”
7Myth: Mosquitoes can pass coronavirus from person to person.
There is no evidence to suggest that coronavirus can spread via mosquitoes, according to WHO. “The new coronavirus is a respiratory virus which spreads primarily through droplets generated when an infected person coughs or sneezes, or through droplets of saliva or discharge from the nose,” the experts note.
8Myth: Bleach, silver solution, and garlic can protect you from coronavirus.
There are a ton of scams that have arisen in the past few weeks, leading to a flurry of complaints from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). There have been false claims that drinkable silver, gargling with bleach, and garlic soup can help you avoid COVID-19. Long story short, if something sounds too good to be true, then it almost certainly is. Washing your hands and limiting contact with others are still the best ways to avoid getting sick.
9Myth: Drinking alcohol can prevent you from contracting COVID-19.
Some people believe that drinking alcohol will prevent them from contracting coronavirus—so many, in fact, that WHO had to address it and debunk the myth.
It turns out, the opposite is actually true. Paul Sasha Nestadt, MD, co-director of the Johns Hopkins Anxiety Disorders Clinic, told Global Health Now, “There are risk factors with isolation, the lack of a schedule, and if alcohol is just there in the house with you. People with depression, anxiety, and substance abuse are also at higher risk when stressed.”
10Myth: Aiming a blow dryer up your nose can cure you of coronavirus.
There are some people who believe that aiming a hairdryer up your nose will cure you from COVID-19. In fact, Florida politician Bryant Culpepper went so far as to brag about his background as a paramedic as he publicly promoted this “cure” that he saw “one of the foremost doctors who has studied the coronavirus” reveal on cable TV. The belief is that the hot air travels up into your nostrils and kills the contagion. But, as you likely already assumed, this “cure” is just a bunch of hot hair. Hairdryers are good for drying hair, not curing or preventing coronavirus.
11Myth: Hand dryers kill COVID-19.
Just like hairdryers don’t kill COVID-19, hand dryers don’t either. WHO plainly states: “Hand dryers are not effective in killing the 2019-nCoV.” Washing your hands regularly, however, is a definite must. And if you want to know how to wash your hands effectively, check out The Best Way to Wash Your Hands to Prevent Getting Sick.
12Myth: Drinking lots of water will help you avoid COVID-19.
Drinking lots of water through the course of the day is good for you, but will it help you avoid coronavirus? Nope. A frequently shared meme on Facebook, Twitter, and on text cites an unnamed Japanese doctor who claims drinking water every 15 minutes washes any virus down the esophagus so it can’t get into your lungs. Turns out, this isn’t true at all. Sure, it’s good to hydrate, but it won’t keep the COVID-19 contagion away.
13Myth: Essential oils and herbal supplements are effective ways to fight coronavirus.
Nope, essential oils do not prevent coronavirus either. But that hasn’t stopped a few companies from trying to sell their products as such. The FDA called out Idaho-based company Herbal Amy for selling “unapproved and misbranded products related to coronavirus disease.” Whether it’s traditional Chinese herbs or CBD/hemp related supplements, there is currently zero evidence that herb consumption will do anything to fight or cure COVID-19
14Myth: UV disinfection lamps can kill coronavirus.
Again, WHO warns, this is yet another coronavirus myth. “UV lamps should not be used to sterilize hands or other areas of skin as UV radiation can cause skin irritation,” they note.
15Myth: Malaria drugs can cure COVID-19.
“To date, there is no specific medicine recommended to prevent or treat the new coronavirus,” WHO says plainly. Sadly, a man in his 60s in Arizona died after self-medicating with chloroquine phosphate in an apparent attempt to cure himself from the novel coronavirus. He and his wife reportedly ingested the household chemical, which is commonly used to clean fish tanks, in late March amid reports that hydroxychloroquine—which is approved by the FDA for treating malaria, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis—can cure coronavirus.
Responding to the incident, Daniel Brooks, MD, Banner Poison and Drug Information Center medical director, said in a statement, “We understand that people are trying to find new ways to prevent or treat this virus. But self-medicating is not the way to do so.”
Similarly, Fauci told Noah that “there is no proven, safe, and effective direct therapy for coronavirus disease.” And though some clinical trials are underway, it’ll be months before anything is proven.
Additional reporting by Alex Daniel.