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Published on March 20, 2020

Debunking COVID-19 Myths

In the age of social media, it’s easy for myths to take off. It’s especially common for information to quickly circulate while many people are home from work and school due to the COVID-19 outbreak, and likely spending more time online.

How do you determine if information you see online or on social media is true? John J. Russell, MD, chair of the Department of Family Medicine and director of the Family Medicine Residency Program at Abington – Jefferson Health, provides clarity on some of the COVID-19 tips and information that you may see circulating.

Q: What over the counter (OTC) medications should you take if you are home sick and suspect you may have COVID-19? Does taking NSAIDS, like ibuprofen, worsen the virus? Is acetaminophen a better option?

A: There was a tweet from a French health official about the connection of worse outcomes in those who take NSAIDS, like ibuprofen or naproxen, for COVID-19 symptoms. There have been conflicting thoughts on this from other reputable sources. Physicians and scientists are still learning more about COVID-19 every day. I suggest starting with acetaminophen for symptoms like fever and aches if you get sick.

If your symptoms persist, please contact your primary care physician by phone or connect with a physician virtually through your phone, tablet or computer with a webcam. You can connect with doctors using JeffConnect anytime, anywhere.

Q: If your throat starts to hurt and you worry you may have COVID-19, does drinking a lot of water immediately wash the virus away?

A: It would be wonderful if it was that easy. Cool drinks may make your throat feel better and temporarily soothe the pain, and of course staying hydrated is important, but drinking fluids does not prevent or cure COVID-19.

Q: Does keeping the inside of your nose moist, say with petroleum jelly, prevent the virus from entering your body through your nose?

A: There is no evidence that this works. What you can do is try to keep your hands away from your eyes, nose and mouth, as this is a way to reduce the likelihood of the virus entering your body. A study of volunteers found that individuals touch their faces up to 23 times an hour on average.

Q: If you cannot hold your breath for 10 seconds without coughing, are you sick? Does holding your breath for 10 seconds without coughing signal that you are not sick?

A: While this home-test has been making the social media rounds, it is not a test used in medicine. A better question is, “are you short of breath doing activities you were able to easily do three weeks ago?”

Q: Which supplements or vitamins can reduce the risk of getting COVID-19, if any?

A: There is no evidence of any vitamins or supplements that reduce the risk of getting the virus. The best ways to reduce risk of getting COVID-19 include practicing social-distancing and washing your hands frequently.

Q: Can touching mail or packages you receive cause you to get the virus?

A: The virus can live on objects and surfaces for a period of time. Taking extra precaution when touching any surfaces at this time is suggested. Washing your hands after handling mail or packages is a good idea.

Please remember, as always, that you can ensure you are reading reputable health information by obtaining information from official sources such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Pennsylvania Department of Health websites.

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