Doctor busts COVID-19 myths
CLOTH masks, homemade hand sanitiser, supplements and heat. The internet is rife with coronavirus misinformation and a Townsville doctor has become increasingly concerned with home remedies, quick fixes and prevention measures circulating online and within the community.
Doctor Peter Gianoulis said his concern started when his own family began to spread posts they had seen on Facebook that were misguided or wrong.
The Townsville and Suburban Medical Practice principal could see the clear misinformation, but understood how people without a medical background it could miss the issues.
Dr Gianoulis said was it was little things that proved the posts were fake or doctored, for example a post from the Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital with temperatures recorded in fahrenheit instead of celsius.
He said he had seen many suggestions from people without medical backgrounds that may have no affect but provide a false sense of security.
Worldwide, people have died from following dangerous suggestions, including some who drank methanol in Iran and an American man that took aquarium cleaner because it had the same pharmaceutical name as a possible coronavirus treatment.
"We don't want that to happen in Australia, particularly in our neighbourhood," he said.
Dr Gianoulis said cloth mask were his biggest concern. The masks become full of moisture and actually may increase the chance of infection.
"There hasn't been any evidence to suggest the cloth masks are helpful," he said. "They might even be more harmful than not wearing a mask."
But it was not just cloth masks that were concerning, he added that some "natural" hand sanitisers being sold locally often did not have the "appropriate amount of alcohol in them". Hand sanitisers need to be 70 per cent or more alcohol to be affective, and washing your hands with soap and water was still more effective, Dr Gianoulis said.
Good nutrition, exercise, get a good sleep and follow social distancing rules was key, he said.
"Just follow the instruction and listen to the advice of medical professionals, but (don't) be panicked," Dr Gianoulis said.
"We can control this as long as everyone is playing their part."
Dr Gianoulis said it was important to get information from a reliable source. He suggested the new Federal Government coronavirus app or the heathdirect.gov.au coronavirus symptom checker was a good place to start.
"Don't forget your doctors are in communication with each other and the wider medical community on a regular basis so they can assist you with questions or concerns you might have and how to stay safe."
Myth busting with Dr Gianoulis
Supplements can keep the immune system healthy and protect against the virus. There is limited and inconsistent evidence that there is any benefit that taking vitamins or supplements will boost the immune system, even against the common cold. In general it is best to get all the nutrients you need from a balanced diet. There is also good evidence to show that 8 hours sleep and moderate intensity exercise keeps your immune system functioning well.
All hand sanitisers are the same. With the current supply of sanitiser being scarce it is understandable that people may want to make their own or purchase alternative types. It is important to note that unless a sanitiser has 70% (or more) ethanol or isopropyl alcohol by volume as an ingredient it will not be effective at eliminating many organisms, especially viruses. In fact your best defence is washing your hands well with soap and water, and if it is not readily available, then use a hand sanitiser. It is also very important that you do not swallow these alcohol based sanitisers as they can cause serious poisoning or death.
We should wear masks when we are out. Most masks are not intended to prevent someone getting a viral infection as they are usually ill-fitting and do not have adequate filtration. They are most effective at preventing someone spreading droplets to others. Therefore if you are well and do not have respiratory symptoms there is little need to wear a mask unless you are in the health workforce, and if you are unwell, you should stay at home.
Cloth masks are protective. Unfortunately there is a lack of evidence that cloth masks are effective. As they retain moisture and their filtration is poor, they are less effective than surgical masks and they may in fact increase the risk of infection. Some people have suggested they may be used to reduce your tendency to touch your face (and this may be correct), but they may also provide a false sense of security.
Heat or water
Heat or water kills/disperses the virus. There is a lot of misinformation about the benefits of drinking liquids to clear the throat of virus and prevent infection. Generally the virus is carried by droplets and can enter the body simultaneously through the eyes, nose and mouth. The virus then attaches to, and injects its genetic material into the body's cells starting a process of replication and further spread. Because of this washing away any viral particles in the back of the throat by drinking liquids will unfortunately not effectively reduce the virus' infectivity.
Originally published as Doctor busts COVID-19 myths