Social media is full of posts that provide advice on how to avoid catching the coronavirus but many of them are untrue.
Over the weekend, humanitarian organisation UNICEF was forced to issue a statement after it was linked to advice urging people to avoid ice cream, saying it was “wholly untrue”.
“To the creators of such falsehoods, we offer a simple message: STOP,” UNICEF partnerships deputy executive director Charlotte Petri Gornitzka said.
She said misinformation during times of a health crisis could spread paranoia, fear, and stigmatisation.
“It can also result in people being left unprotected or more vulnerable to the virus,” Ms Gornitzka said.
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She urged members of the public to seek accurate information from verified sources such as UNICEF or the World Health Organisation, government health officials and trusted healthcare professionals.
Ms Gornitzka said people should also avoid sharing information from untrustworthy or unverified sources.
“It can be difficult in today’s information-rich society to know exactly where to go for knowledge about how to keep yourself and your loved ones safe,” she said.
“But it is critical that we remain as diligent about the accuracy of the information we share as we are about every other precaution we take to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe.”
Here are some pieces of fake “advice” that have been debunked.
‘TAKE A FEW SIPS OF WATER EVERY 15 MINS’
A number of posts are circulating advising people to keep their mouth and throat moist, and “never DRY”.
One suggests taking a few sips of water every 15 minutes at least so “even if the virus gets into your mouth … drinking water or other liquids will WASH them down through your oesophagus and into the stomach.
“Once there in tummy … your stomach ACID will kill all the virus.”
The post warns that if you don’t drink enough water regularly “the virus can enter your windpipes and into the LUNGS”.
The AFP fact checked a similar post that advised people to drink “50-80cc warm water, 30-50cc for kids” and found that while drinking water is generally regarded as a good thing for health, there was no evidence that authorities had recommended it to prevent the coronavirus.
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‘AVOID COLD DRINKS, ICE CREAM’
This advice is being spread via social media, including by Indian actress Srabanti Chatterjee, and suggests people should “avoid any form of cold drinks, ice creams, koolfee etc, any type of preserved foods, milkshake, rough ice, ice colas, milk sweets older then 48 hours, for at least 90 days from today”.
Humanitarian aid group UNICEF was forced to release a statement on the weekend after it was linked to the advice, saying it was “wholly untrue”.
“A recent erroneous online message circulating in several languages around the world and purporting to be a UNICEF communication appears to indicate, among other things, that avoiding ice cream and other cold foods can help prevent the onset of the disease. This is, of course, wholly untrue,” UNICEF partnerships deputy executive director Charlotte Petri Gornitzka said.
‘ONLY EAT COOKED FOODS’
The WHO’s advice only refers to meat products and suggests these should be “cooked thoroughly and properly handled during food preparation”.
TAKE BATHS, KEEP INDOOR TEMPERATURE ABOVE 20C
There is some hope that higher temperatures could inhibit the spread of coronavirus but WHO emergencies program executive director Dr Mike Ryan warned there was no evidence this would happen.
“It is a false hope to say, ‘Yes, it will just disappear in summertime’ like influenza virus,” he said.
Research on this has yet to be scientifically reviewed and others have suggested that temperature alone will not necessarily lead to fewer cases, without the implementation of public health interventions.
In the WHO’s own advice page about coronavirus myths, it notes that taking a hot bath will also not prevent someone from catching COVID-19.
“Your normal body temperature remains around 36.5°C to 37°C, regardless of the temperature of your bath or shower. Actually, taking a hot bath with extremely hot water can be harmful, as it can burn you,” WHO states.
SPRAY ALCOHOL OR CHLORINE OVER YOUR BODY
The WHO has debunked this theory saying spraying alcohol or chlorine all over your body will not kill viruses that have already entered your body.
“Spraying such substances can be harmful to clothes or mucous membranes (i.e. eyes, mouth). “Be aware that both alcohol and chlorine can be useful to disinfect surfaces, but they need to be used under appropriate recommendations.”
RINSING YOUR NOSE WITH SALINE
WHO says there is some “limited evidence” that regularly rinsing your nose with saline can help people recover more quickly from the common cold.
But this has not been shown to prevent respiratory infections.
Many social media posts recommend eating garlic but while it may have some antimicrobial properties, WHO says “there is no evidence from the current outbreak that eating garlic has protected people from the new coronavirus”.
DRINKING MMS, ALSO KNOWN AS ‘BLEACH’
There’s been a number of claims that a “miracle mineral supplement” called MMS, which contains a bleaching agent called chlorine dioxide, can cure coronavirus.
One of the most popular posts has been from YouTuber Jordan Sather.
He said MMS was an “effective cancer cell killer” and can “wipe out coronavirus too”.
Would you look at that.
Not only is chlorine dioxide (aka “MMS”) an effective cancer cell killer, it can wipe out coronavirus too.
No wonder YouTube has been censoring basically every single video where I discuss it over the last year.
Big Pharma wants you ignorant. https://t.co/7cqmyUxcXY
— Jordan Sather (@Jordan_Sather_) January 23, 2020
However, the US food and Drug Administration warned people last year not to drink sodium chlorite products such as MMS as they can make you sick.
It said distributors were making false and dangerous claims about them being a remedy for conditions like autism, cancer, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, flu and other conditions.
“When mixed according to package directions, they become a strong chemical that is used as bleach,” the agency said.
“Sodium chlorite products are dangerous, and you and your family should not use them.
“The FDA is not aware of any research showing that these products are safe or effective for treating any illness.”
WHAT SHOULD YOU DO?
The only official advice from the World Health Organisation talks about washing your hands frequently, keeping at least one metre away from anyone who is coughing and sneezing, avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth, covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze and seeking medical care early.
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