COVID-19 Watch FACT CHECK Health

VERA FILES FACT CHECK: MISLEADING tips to prevent COVID-19 go viral again on social media

A viral message that has circulated in private group chats since January, which contains incorrect advice on preventing infection with the disease, was reposted on Facebook (FB) this April by a municipal mayor in Isabela.

The post continues to gain traction this May, getting over 1,000 shares on the platform.

Hot baths don’t work vs COVID-19

The FB post wrongly states that taking a hot, five-minute bath at 41°C four or more times a week lessens the chance of infection with the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) “by 60%.”

“Taking a hot bath will not protect you from COVID-19,” the World Health Organization (WHO) wrote in its Mythbusters page. Contrary to the claim, it added: “Your normal body temperature remains around 36.5°C to 37°C, regardless of the temperature of your bath or shower.”

The WHO reminded people that the best way to protect oneself against COVID-19 is by frequently cleaning the hands, and warned that “taking a hot bath with extremely hot water can be harmful.”

No evidence that gargling prevents coronavirus infection

The FB post also erroneously stated that gargling with water, salt water, mouthwash, tea, or water diluted with povidone-iodine after going outdoors can help prevent upper respiratory tract infections (URTIs), citing a Russian study.

VERA Files Fact Check did not find research from Russia that supports this. There was a randomized trial in Japan in 2005 which observed that gargling may be effective in preventing URTIs in healthy people.

There is no scientific evidence that suggests using mouthwashes, rinses, and gargling solutions will prevent COVID-19 infection, said a group of public health experts convened by technology nonprofit Meedan.

Taiwan Fact Check Center has debunked a similar claim, with Taiwanese health experts saying gargling with salt and water is “ineffective” and has “no scientific basis” for preventing viral infection.

The circulating message carrying the false advice was posted on April 12 on FB by Gregorio Pua, the current municipal mayor of San Mateo, Isabela. It has been published by Filipino FB users as early as Jan. 20, and was turned into a Twitter thread on Jan. 24.

The erroneous post was attributed to as “advice by Dr. Zhong Nanshan” from China, but a keyword search for the message shows that a similar message also circulated in Taiwan in July 2020. It was credited to a certain nephrologist named Jiang Shoushan. The Taiwanese version was debunked by fact checking organization MyGoPen.

The viral message also carried three more claims that needed context and two factual tips. (Read: VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Some of these viral tips on prevention vs COVID-19 NEED CONTEXT)

(Editor’s Note: VERA Files has partnered with Facebook to fight the spread of disinformation. Find out more about this partnership and our methodology.)