Every few days there’s a new post making the rounds that starts with “my uncle’s friend who is a doctor or something”…..This isn’t the only one, there are many. If the post doesn’t include links to sources, question it. It may be right, or wrong. Often it’s a little of both.

Much of the latest one is probably right, but there aren’t a lot of data yet to document it.

1. “If you have a runny nose and sputum, you have a cold.”

True, but a cold can have a variety of symptoms and not always a lot of sputum: Runny nose, sore throat, cough, congestion, slight body aches or mild headache, sneezing, low-grade fever, general malaise. The runny nose may become thicker and yellow or green.

2. “Coronavirus pneumonia is a dry cough with no runny nose.”

True. The most common symptom has been fever (83%-98%), followed by dry cough (76%-82%). Others have reported malaise, headache, sore throat, and diarrhea (which was also found in SARS patients).

Just don’t self-diagnose based only on these symptoms. Flu has very similar symptoms or you may have a mild case of COVID-19. Or all of the above.

3. “This new virus is not heat-resistant and will be killed by a temperature of just 26/27 degrees C. It hates the Sun.”

This one is a little more difficult to address, because we really don’t know. The statement suggests you just need to stay outside and the sun will kill it. Various politicians have said it’ll die in heat, and some scientists have said it too. However, MERS, a similar Coronavirus was transmitted in Saudi Arabia in August. SARS-CoV (from 2003) was found to be stable in air-conditioned environments for two weeks. It dies at 56C (132.8ºF) but it’s not like that’s a normal temp outside. If anyone has current data on heat stability for SARS-CoV-2, please share.

4. “If someone sneezes with it, it takes about 10 feet before it drops to the ground and is no longer airborne.”

I get a little squicky (that’s a scientific term) when “airborne” is used because that’s a term of transmission that doesn’t appear to be relevant for SARS-CoV-2. As far as we know, it’s transmitted by droplets or fomites. So the author means “the droplet isn’t in the air.” We generally go by 3–6ft for droplet travel, but sure, if you want to stay 10 feet from others, that’s ok.

5. “If it drops on a metal surface it will live for at least 12 hours — so if you come into contact with any metal surface wash your hands as soon as you can with a bacterial soap.”

Again, it’s early days. There have been some pre-prints floating around, but it’s been hard to verify anything specific about SARS-CoV-2. However, one study reviewed the literature and found that SARS-CoV (the 2003 version) could live for 5 days on metal.

So just wash your hands.

6. “On fabric it can survive 6–12 hours. Normal laundry detergent will kill it.”

The same lit review found that it could live on hospital gowns for anywhere from 1 hour to 24 hours. Most countries are recommending to wash with laundry detergent.

This is where it gets fun:

7. “Drinking warm water is effective for all viruses. Try not to drink liquids with ice.”

This sounded like an old wives tale, and sure enough…
While this is from a newspaper, there were other reports on the survival of SARS-CoV-2 in water that matched this.

The virus is killed in water at 56C (132.8ºF) after 30 minutes. But pretty sure no one is drinking water that is 132.8ºF. And going down your digestive tract, it’s not going to help a virus in the respirator tract.

Warm water is good for hand washing because it makes the soap sud up better. You’re also not going to wash your hands in water that hot.

As for ice, well, no. That is just totally bogus and there are many many sites discrediting it. Unfortunately, there’s a youtube video encouraging it. (And it says to stay away from ice cream!)

8. “Wash your hands frequently as the viruses can only live on your hands for 5–10 minutes.”

Not sure about the timing, but YES. Wash your hands.

9. “You should gargle as a prevention. A simple solution of salt water will suffice.”

The poor old wives, they told a lot of tales. Gargling with salt water doesn’t prevent infection. It does tend to soothe a sore throat, but it’s not preventing the virus from entering. This one makes me a bit nostalgic though, since my dad always told me to gargle with salt water when I was sick.

10. “Can’t emphasize enough — drink plenty of water!”

Sure, drinking water frequently is good for our bodies any day. It helps to keep us healthy. But it doesn’t prevent against COVID-19. Some claim it “flushes” out the virus. It doesn’t.

So, overall? Most of the advice is ok, but perhaps not specific to our new Coronavirus. And some of the advice, well it is basically what we in San Antonio would say about using Vicks.

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