Myths often start with “I heard a rumour”. With the COVID-19 situation evolving rapidly, it’s important to filter out myths and claims so you can better protect yourself and your loved ones. We bust 10 popular myths circulating about COVID-19 with Dr Tham Chee Kian, Deputy Head and Senior Consultant, Division of Medical Oncology.
Myth 1: You can protect yourself from COVID-19 by rubbing bleach or disinfectants on your body.
Bleach and disinfectant are used to clean surfaces, which is important in keeping the areas around you clean and stopping the transmission of viruses like COVID-19. Never drink bleach or disinfectant or use these products to clean your body. It is dangerous and can cause you serious harm.
Myth 2: Only older people are at risk, children are immune to COVID-19
While it’s true that older people may have higher risk of developing serious complications if they are infected, COVID-19 can spread to individuals of all ages. Current information tells us that children do catch it, although their symptoms seem to be less severe. However, the World Health Organisation (WHO) recently released a commentary on an inflammatory condition affecting children which may be linked to COVID-19.
Myth 3: COVID-19 is just like the flu.
COVID-19 does have flu-like symptoms, like cough, fever and body aches. And just like the flu, both disease can be mild, severe, or in some cases, fatal. Both can also lead to pneumonia.
However, research seems to indicate that COVID-19 spreads much easier than the flu and is more fatal.
Myth 4: I can take antibiotics to protect against or cure COVID-19
Antibiotics are effective in treating bacterial infections, not viruses. Although some symptoms of bacterial infections can be similar, for example: coughing, sneezing or a fever, COVID-19 is a virus and taking antibiotics won’t do anything to prevent or cure it. You should only take antibiotics if they have been prescribed to you by your doctor.
Myth 5: Exposing myself to the sun can help me guard against COVID-19
This myth probably comes from a combination of two observations. Firstly, there are observations about flu “seasons”. The flu season tends to pick up in autumn and winter, and tends to be less intense in the warmer months of spring and summer.
The other observation is that UV light is used as a form of sterilisation. You may have seen it used to sterilize equipment at the dentist, and it is used in operating theatres.
However, countries with hot weather like Iran have reported the wide spread of COVID-19, so there is no evidence to support the claim that prolonged exposure to the sun and its UV light can protect against COVID-19.
Myth 6: Drinking alcohol can protect you from
While alcohol is a good tool for cleaning and disinfecting, how it works on the outside of the body is different from how it works inside the body. This “myth” is so popular that WHO published an advisory to debunk this myth.
Ingesting medical grade alcohol (ethanol) can cause severe harm. Furthermore, consuming a lot of alcohol can impair your body’s immune system, making you more susceptible to catching COVID-19!
Myth 7: Eating more garlic can help protect you against COVID-19
Garlic is long said to be good for you with some antioxidant properties. However, there is no evidence to support the idea that eating garlic can protect you from COVID-19.
Myth 8: COVID-19 can be spread by houseflies and mosquitoes.
To date, there is no information or scientific evidence to suggest that COVID-19 can be spread by houseflies or mosquitoes. COVID-19 is a respiratory disease which spreads through droplets, when an infected person coughs or sneezes, or from discharge (e.g. mucus) from the nose.
Myth 9: 5G phone network towers are causing COVID-19
There are people around the world who believe that radiation from the 5G network (fifth generation of Internet communications technology) weakens the immune system and causes the COVID-19 symptoms. Whether it’s 5G or previous generations of mobile signalling, signals from your mobile devices are transmitted by radio waves, which do not have the ability to harm human cells. This “radiation” is very different from the radiation used in X-rays or radiotherapy for cancer treatment.
Just like the warm weather myth, COVID-19 has been spreading in countries without 5G infrastructure, so there is no basis for this claim.
Myth 10: If I get COVID-19, will I be infected for life?
It’s important to seek medical attention if you have symptoms of COVID-19. With medical help, most people who are infected by the virus can recover and eliminate the virus from the body.
What remains in the body after recovery are antibodies, which are proteins produced by the body to help fight infections. Antibodies usually appear one to three weeks after exposure, and may offer some protection if the individual is exposed to the same virus.
Scientists are still studying this information to better understand how COVID-19 works and spreads.
It’s important to make sure you have the right information. One good practice is to keep updated via official channels. A simple fact check can help you protect you and your loved ones better.
As we gradually ease Circuit Breaker measures, we must all remember that the war is not over. Please continue to practice safe distancing, wear face masks appropriately and maintain good personal hygiene at all times.
About our Expert
Dr Tham Chee Kian is the Deputy Head and Senior Consultant at the Division of Medical Oncology, National Cancer Centre Singapore(NCCS). His subspecialty interest is in neuro-oncology and gastrointestinal oncology. He is also actively involved in medical education. He is currently an Assistant Professor at the Duke-NUS Medical School and is the course director for the Year 1 Duke-NUS Practice Course. He is also the Associate Programme Director of the SingHealth Internal Medicine Residency Program.
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