Coronavirus Fake News


Coronavirus, COVID-19, appears to have simultaneously brought out the worst and best in humanity. For every story of a brave NHS worker helping the sick, we have a group of berks hoarding vital supplies, so the very same NHS workers are deprived after long, gruelling shifts trying to save all of us. Amongst the chaos, worrying, misleading and completely irrational advice has sprung up all over social media and various nonsense news websites. Advice that actually works is incredibly important right now. The only people you should be listening to are medical, health and science professionals and their representative organisations like the NHS as well as official government advice. That means your mate Phil down the road, or Aunt Betty who swears by a ‘homemade cure’ should be quite literally told to bog off. These people are part of the problem; spreading rumours and hearsay that helps absolutely no one and can be actively damaging to individuals and society as a whole. We have put together an article highlighting some of the most common untruths and myths we have seen regarding coronavirus.


Specific Foods – Lemon and Garlic

Lemon and garlic always do the myth rounds during flu season and it appears to be no different with COVID-19. Hundreds of comments on posts to the effect of ‘I’ve heard warm water with 3 slices of lemon helps’ can be found all over social media. The sad truth is that this is nonsense. Most of the claimed medical benefits of lemon appears to stem from its Vitamin C content but there is also no solid evidence that Vitamin C supplementation (in a person who otherwise has healthy Vitamin C levels already) prevents illness or even reduces symptoms of acquired illnesses.

It may be true that warm lemon water has a placebo calming effect or may ease a sore throat when we are already ill, but it is not preventative or curative of COVID-19 in any way.

The exact same goes for garlic and any food for that matter. A varied diet is important to keep our immune system healthy, but no single food item will stave off COVID-19 or any virus for that matter.

Drinking Silver (what?!)

Colloidal silver solution has been touted for decades as a sort of cure all, especially when bacteria and viruses are concerned. More recently, colloidal silver, which is tiny particles of silver suspended in a liquid, has been claimed to kill some strains of coronavirus within 12 hours. This claim came from someone who had yet to be tested for COVID-19.

This claim has been widely shared on Facebook in various forms, especially within groups where this sort of information thrives i.e groups that distrust pharmaceuticals, are anti-vaccine loons.

Despite claims that colloidal silver can boost the immune system and treat a variety of diseases, there is no evidence that this is true. There is, however, a small nugget of truth that silver does possess some anti-microbial properties which is why it is occasionally found in bandages. HOWEVER, there is no evidence that eating silver is good; in fact, it can be life threatening and lead to kidney damage as well as seizures.

This drinkable silver advice is such nonsense that even Facebooks automatic fact checking service pops up when users attempt to share it. DO NOT DRINK SILVER!

‘Facebook’ Fake News i.e. Drink Water Every 15 Minutes

Most of the myths on this list are primarily spread by Facebook; short-punchy nonsense posts are particularly prevalent on the platform and the ‘Drinking Myth’ is a prime example.

A post, copied, pasted and shared countless thousands of times and originally citing a nameless Japanese Doctor claims that drinking water every 15 minutes ensures the virus is washed into your stomach (and presumably destroyed by the acidic environment).

However, there is no plausible biological mechanism to support the idea that a respiratory virus can be washed into the stomach by drinking. Bear in mind that this virus can also enter our respiratory tract through the nose. The virus enters directly into the mouth and nose and lungs when we breathe. Drinking doesn’t stop that.

Having said this, drinking frequently and staying hydrated is good practise especially if you are ill.


Hot Water and Sunbathing

The advice that heat kills the virus is circulating in many forms at the moment and while UV radiation and high temperatures probably do destroy COVID-19 (not yet proven but we know this is true of the flu virus) the advice remains incredibly misleading.

Advice includes things like sunbathing, drinking hot water and avoiding cold drinks and foods like ice cream. There is no evidence that any of these protect against the virus. It is good biological sense to assume that once the virus has entered your system, drinking hot water isn’t going to do anything. Furthermore, your body temperature (unless you have a fever) is maintained at a very tight set point – so drinking either cold or hot water does not change the temperature of your body. Similarly, trying to heat your body from the outside by sunbathing is equally useless.

The only sound advice partially related to this is the advice to wash clothes and bed linens above 60°C to ensure viruses are destroyed.

Fresh Air 

Fresh air is certainly good for us, not just for our mental health but from a physiological standpoint as well; for example, sunlight is critical for Vitamin D production.  Outside environments can be perceived as safer as many viruses persist much longer in indoor environments. This is partly because indoor areas are likely to be slightly more humid due to human activity and are also much more environmentally stable; no sudden winds, cold spells, bright light from the sun etc. However, this does not mean that viruses cannot be spread outside. We know from research on the influenza virus and other coronaviruses that they don’t survive well under UV radiation (provided by sunlight) and are also not fond of hotter temperatures. But we do not yet know if this definitely applies to COVID-19. As of writing the general understanding is that fresh air is not a defence against this virus in of itself and while you are probably less likely to catch the virus in open air than inside, it is PEOPLE that you need to worry about. It’s all very good being in a lovely park on a sunny day but if you are close to people you are still at serious risk of catching COVID-19. If you do decide to go for a walk or a bike ride, you must follow the 2 metre distancing rule!

For up-to-date advice and resource links regarding COVID-19, visit our Coronavirus Announcement page. We also advise everyone to watch the daily government briefing which is shown on BBC1 usually at 5PM every day. This is a very useful half an hour and not enough people are tuning in.

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