Holding your breath can’t help you self-diagnose the coronavirus. Here’s what you should do instead.

  • A viral email has circulated claiming that holding your breath for 10 seconds can help you self-diagnose the coronavirus, but experts say that’s not true.
  • The same email also claims drinking lots of water and taking sips at least every 15 minutes can also prevent the virus by “washing it down” before it can cause infection. This is also false.
  • If you suspect you may have coronavirus, have recently travelled to an infected area, show symptoms like a fever and dry cough, or have been in close contact with people who tested positive, seek medical help immediately.
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People are continuing to take precautions against the spread of the coronavirus worldwide, even as disinfecting products run out and the number of cases continues to rise. Fears about the virus, however, have also prompted the spread of misinformation on how to prevent from getting sick, and inaccurate advice on how to know if you do have COVID-19.

In particular, there is one popular text thread circulating via email and social media that claims to have “serious excellent advice by Japanese doctors treating COVID-19.” Among other things, it wrongly says that people who can hold their breath for 10 seconds without coughing can be assured that they don’t have a coronavirus infection.

The post, which is wrongly attributed to Stanford University professors, also claims that constantly drinking water, at least every 15 minutes, can help “wash [the virus] down” before it can cause infection.

Those claims are just a couple of the false self-diagnosis myths circulating at the moment that could cause infected people to leave it too late, according to experts. Here are some of the misleading suggestions, and what you should actually do:

Holding your breath has nothing to do with the coronavirus

Claims that holding your breath can test for coronavirus have been shared via email, text message, and social media as the virus itself continues to spread across the country.

Although the specifics vary, the general advice is that people can tell if they have coronavirus by holding their breath – those who are able to successfully do this for more than 10 seconds without pain or discomfort reportedly have “no fibrosis” in the lungs, indicating there is no infection, according to the claim.

“That’s not true. That can check if you are anxious or have respiratory compromise,” Loren Rauch, a community ER doctor at Antelope Valley Hospital in Los Angeles with a master’s degree in epidemiology, told Mother Jones.

Fibrosis refers to scarring in the lungs, not infection, Rauch said. And how long you hold your breath has nothing to do with coronavirus.

The advice has been credited to various experts such as “doctors from Taiwan” or even Stanford University, which has disavowed the dubious recommendations on its official Twitter account.

Another myth is that drinking lots of fluids, warm water, or water with salt will kill the virus

The same text thread advising people to hold their breath also claims that drinking enough water can prevent the virus. But it’s a myth that water can wash the virus down from your mouth or throat into your stomach, where stomach acid will kill the virus.

Similarly, warm water or salt water also will not kill the virus.

“Totally bogus. That’s not real,” Rauch told Mother Jones.

The best way to prevent the virus is to avoid exposing yourself in the first place by washing your hands, keeping surfaces clean, and staying away from crowded areas or people who have tested positive for the coronavirus.

A sore throat is not a common symptom of coronavirus

Another frequent myth being shared online is that coronavirus infection starts with a sore throat. It’s actually most likely to cause fever and a dry cough – some people with the infection may have a sore throat, muscle aches, or other symptoms, but those occur less often.

The virus has some symptoms in common with other illnesses such as the flu, colds, and seasonal allergies, but typical problems like a runny nose and sneezing don’t indicate COVID-19, according to experts.

Covid 19 compared to other common conditions table

If you suspect you may have coronavirus, call a doctor about how to get tested without exposing others

Experts agree that if you think you have coronavirus, the most important thing to do is call medical experts – don’t just head into a clinic or hospital, since you might risk spreading the virus if you are infected.

Call a doctor so you can be advised via phone if you fit the criteria for a case of COVID-19. Then you can discuss options for testing, and what to do if you test positive for coronavirus. If you need immediate treatment, safe transportation to an medical isolation room can be arrange. Otherwise, you may be advised to quarantine at home.

In addition, if you think you may be sick, avoid contact with others, don’t share personal items like towels and bedding, cover coughs and sneezes, and wash your hands as well as high-touch surfaces like phones and door handles.

Read more:

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Avoiding processed food won’t protect you from the coronavirus, but sleep, exercise, and reducing stress will help

Vitamins and supplements won’t protect you from the coronavirus despite immune-boosting claims