PALO ALTO, Calif. (CNN) — Contrary to what some may think, not everything on social media is rooted in fact.
Case in point: A recent viral coronavirus “simple self-check test,” which medical experts say is completely inaccurate.
Written on what appears to be the iPhone notes app, the three-part post falsely claims that people can find out whether they have coronavirus simply by holding their breath for more than 10 seconds. If they can hold their breath without coughing, the test claims they don’t have the virus.
The post, which began circulating Twitter, Facebook, and emails last week, was falsely credited to a member of the “Stanford Hospital board.” Stanford Health Care spokeswoman Lisa Kim told CNN the “dangerous” post is not affiliated with Stanford Medicine and “contains inaccurate information.”
To debunk all the false information included in the post, CNN spoke to Dr. Robert Legare Atmar, an infectious disease specialist at Baylor College of Medicine.
Myth: Drinking water will protect you from the coronavirus
CLAIM: “If you don’t drink enough water more regularly, the virus can enter your windpipe and into lungs.”
Whoever penned the post also wrote that people should drink water “every 15 minutes at least” to wash the virus down through the throat and into the stomach, where the acid will supposedly kill the virus.
REALITY: Atmar said there is no evidence from any other respiratory viruses that proves this approach works.
“Even if it worked at all, which it doesn’t, people still breathe in from their nose, not just their mouths,” Atmar told CNN. “This would still only protect the mouth and not the nose.”
Myth: Gurgling water and salt will prevent the coronavirus
CLAIM: “A simple solution of salt in warm water will suffice.”
Along with gurgling a water and salt solution, the post also suggested drinking warm water can kill the virus.
REALITY: Based on data from other respiratory viruses, saltwater “would not be expected to work,” Atmar said.
By recommending people to drink warm water, the post implies the temperature of the water inactivates the virus, which Atmar said is entirely incorrect.
Myth: If you can hold your breath for 10 seconds, you’re OK
CLAIM: “Take a deep breath and hold your breath for more than 10 seconds. If you complete it successfully without coughing, without discomfort, stiffness or tightness, it proves there is no fibrosis in the lungs, basically indicates no infection.”
REALITY: Atmar said this is simply “not correct.”
“When someone has an acute viral infection it can be difficult to take a deep breath and not cough because the airways are irritated. That’s all it means. It doesn’t say anything about fibrosis, even though people with fibrosis might struggle doing it. Being able to hold your breath for 10 seconds also doesn’t mean someone doesn’t have coronavirus.”
Myth: If you have a runny nose, it’s just a cold
CLAIM: “If you have a runny nose and sputum, you have a common cold. Coronavirus pneumonia is a dry cough with no runny nose.”
REALITY: This isn’t completely true, Atmar said. A runny nose can be a symptom of the flu, allergies and other illnesses.
And while many patients of the coronavirus do have a dry cough, those with coronavirus pneumonia also have had or could have a productive, or “wet,” cough which produces phlegm (sputum), according to Atmar.
Myth: If you have the coronavirus, you’ll get pneumonia
CLAIM: “The virus then blends into a nasal fluid that enters the trachea and then the lungs, causing pneumonia.” The post also said the virus first infects the throat, which would give patients a sore throat for three to four days before blending into a nasal fluid.
REALITY: This is also not entirely accurate. The time sequence for coronavirus symptoms vary from patient to patient, and not all patients will have a sore throat, Atmar said.
Not everyone with a sore throat has coronavirus, either, and not all coronavirus patients will develop pneumonia.
Myth: Coronavirus patients will experience a drowning sensation
CLAIM: “The nasal congestion is not like the normal kind. You feel like you’re drowning.
REALITY: This isn’t true.
“That does not sound like any other respiratory virus people are infected with and many patients with coronavirus have not had nasal infection at all,” Atmar told CNN.
Myth: By the time a person with coronavirus is hospitalized, their lungs will have experienced fibrosis
CLAIM: “By the time they have fever and/or cough and go to the hospital, the lung is usually 50% fibrosis and it’s too late.”
Fibrosis is the irreversible scarring of the lung which can lead to respiratory failure.
REALITY: This is totally incorrect.
“This information is extremely alarmist,” Atmar said. “Fibrosis only develops in the minority of patients and 80 percent of coronavirus patients experience only the mild symptoms of the disease, so this is incorrect.”
The incubation period for coronavirus, Atmar said, is two to 14 days. Symptoms usually begin with five to six days of exposure, with the first week including a cough, sore throat, fever, and muscle aches. Only the minority of patients will experience the second week of severe respiratory symptoms and may be at risk of fibrosis.
While the coronavirus is an issue everyone in the world should be taking seriously, the spread of false information can be both dangerous and deadly.
If you aren’t sure if something you are reading about the coronavirus is correct, the best thing to do to is to check with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or your local health department — not social media.