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8 coronavirus myths busted by a doctor

8 coronavirus myths busted by a doctor
(Image credit: Getty)

Search online for ‘Coronavirus facts’ and you’ll quickly come across a mixed bag, from the official, science-backed CDC Coronavirus guidelines to well-meaning but potentially harmful homespun health advice about how using vinegar to clean your bathroom and kitchen helps kill the virus, or how using a hand sanitizer is just as effective as washing your hands with soap and water.

To help separate fact from fiction, Dr Gero Baiarda, a registered GP with doctor-on-demand service GPDQ, has rounded-up some of the most common COVID-19 myths and explains not only how they’re incorrect, but the measures you can take to protect yourself and your loved ones. Starting with how COVID-19 isn’t a lived organism that we can kill... 

“It is not alive," clarifies Dr Baiarda. "It is a protein chain of RNA within a protective layer of fat. Since the virus is a protein super molecule rather than a living organism, you cannot kill it. It will, however, decay spontaneously given enough time. The time it takes to break down depends on the environmental temperature, humidity and type of material upon which it settles.”

Here are 8 other common coronavirus (COVID-19) myths debunked by Dr Baiarda...

Myth 1: COVID-19 is a hardy virus

“It isn’t. COVID-19 is surprisingly fragile. The only protection it has is a thin outer layer of lipid or fat. That is why any soap or detergent (both of which break down fat) will destroy it – even washing up liquid works well. By dissolving the external lipid layer of the virus, the virus is rendered inert and unable to penetrate human cells. Hence why washing hands often with soap and water is so important.” 

Myth 2: People are most contagious before they know they have COVID-19

“This is untrue. Infected cells are invaded and destroyed by the virus, allowing millions of new viruses to burst forth and be shed on surfaces or passed to other people. Spread is most effective, therefore, in coughed droplets. Patients who are asymptomatic can, however, pass on the virus as soon as they are infected.” 

According to the World Health Organization's overview of Coronavirus, the common symptoms of COVID-19 include tiredness, a new dry cough and fever. The most accurate way to tell if you have a fever is by taking your temperature. If you don't yet own one – and they are especially tricky to find right now due to the increased demand – we have rounded up the best digital thermometers to help you take fast and accurate temperature readings.

Myth 3: Alcohol-based sanitizer with 60% alcohol is as effective as soap and water

“Wrong. Squirting a little bit of alcohol gel on your palms and rubbing them together is not effective. You need to cover the entire surface of both hands including fingers and thumbs, but this should be done only after the hands are free of any residues - such as after sneezing. The small nozzle on bottles of sanitizer are part of the problem, as people assume a small amount is ample. “

Myth 4: Moisturizing your hands after washing reduces cleanliness

“Wrong. Moisturizing the skin is very important. The virus can lodge itself in damaged skin on your hands cracked by repeated washing, so it’s important to try to avoid this. Keeping fingernails short will reduce the risk of sheltering and passing on the virus too.” 

A person moisturizers their hands with hand cream

(Image credit: Moose Photos at Pexels)

Myth 5: Washing hands isn’t as important when self-isolating, as you’re all virus-free

“Wrong. If there are any external items (shopping, deliveries, etc) entering your home, hand washing remains important. Every time you wash your hands you break the chain of infection. If in doubt, give them a wash! Do this for at least 20 seconds with warm, soapy water, and if you have paper towels that you can throw away, this is better than using a communal towel. If using towels, dedicate one to each person in the house, keep them separate and wash them daily.”

The CDC recently issued laundry instructions to make your washing safer from COVID-19, including how to disinfect your laundry and why it's an important measure for your household. We've also rounded-up the best tips on how to deep clean your home while self-isolating.

Myth 6: If delivery drivers wear gloves, they won't spread the virus

“Wrong. Every item a gloved hand touches can then be contaminated. According to a recent study from the New England Journal of Medicine, the virus can live up to eight hours on cardboard. To stay safe, the best advice is not to touch the parcel until ideally the following day.”

Myth 7: COVID-19 can’t be passed on by food

“It can be transferred easily. If someone who has the virus on their hands touches food, it is very likely to become contaminated for many hours. To denature and inactivate the virus, food should either be washed or cooked at 65 degrees celsius at least for four minutes or more.” 

Myth 8: Vinegar can keep rooms virus free

“Vinegar will not work against COVID-19 and is not advised. The cleaning of bathrooms, kitchens and surfaces is still best carried out with hot water from the tap and a surface detergent as you have always done. If you have a case of COVID-19 in your house and want to disinfect common areas, use a dilution of household bleach or hydrogen peroxide, a mild antiseptic.”

Looking for more health content? Take a look at our guide to the best fitness trackers designed to help you stay active during lockdown, or the best treadmills for walking or running indoors. Need help with insurance? We've also reviewed the best health insurance and best Medicare Part D plans for prescription drugs costs.