DEAR MAYO CLINIC: I have read many conflicting things about COVID-19, including how it spreads from person to person and how I might be able to reduce my risk of getting sick. Can you help me understand whether some things I've heard are myth or fact because I do not want to spread the virus or get sick?
ANSWER: SARS-Co-V2 is the novel coronavirus that causes the disease known as COVID-19. Because COVID-19 is a new disease, much is still being learned about how it spreads and the severity of illness it causes. As news of the COVID-19 pandemic continues to dominate headlines worldwide, some social media and internet sites have shared misinformation, and myths are circulating.
Below are some of the top questions I've received recently:
Can hand dryers kill COVID-19?
Avoid hand dryers. The reason for that is that they just increase the air circulation of the viruses, as that air -- either warm or not warm -- is blowing against your hands. That's been well-demonstrated with other viruses.
Should I avoid using my hair dryer?
As long as you are not ill with a cough or fever, or have been exposed to someone who does, I see no issue with using a hair dryer. There is no literature I am aware of to suggest it represents a risk.
Can spraying alcohol or chlorine on my body kill COVID-19?
You do not want to spray alcohol or chlorine on your body. These solutions are intended to be used on hard surfaces. For your body, use simple soap and water. There are surface tension agents in soap, so it takes away the electrostatic attraction of the virus to your skin, destroys the viral envelope, and removes oils and mucous that may be on your body that the virus can live in. And you are, by friction, literally washing it away with water.
Do I have to wash my hands in scalding water?
No, you do not have to use hot water. Either warm or cold works just as well. It's more important to wash properly. Your hands have oils on them, and viruses stick to that oil. They have an electrostatic charge to them. But when you're washing with soap, by physically rubbing, the friction is washing away that virus, and the soap damages the virus. It is the most effective thing we know to do. That's why surgeons, for example, scrub their hands so carefully before they go into an operating room. It works, and it works really well.
When washing your hands, follow these steps:
-- Wet your hands with clean, running water -- either warm or cold.
-- Apply soap and lather well.
-- Rub your hands vigorously for at least 20 seconds. Remember to scrub all surfaces, including the backs of your hands, your wrists, between your fingers and under your fingernails.
-- Rinse well.
-- Dry your hands with a clean towel or air-dry them.
Can regularly rinsing your nose with saline help prevent infection with COVID-19, or will using these increase my chance of contracting COVID-19?
The nasal rinses have primarily been shown to be effective with sinusitis and allergies. There is no direct evidence that saline will prevent COVID-19 nor increase your risk of infection.
Can eating garlic help prevent infection with COVID-19?
Garlic will help only insofar as it makes social distancing easier. There is no evidence that shows garlic protects people from the virus.
Can you protect yourself by gargling bleach?
There has been information shared on the internet where people have talked about gargling diluted bleach, and also putting bleach on cotton plugs and putting it in the nose. These are extraordinarily dangerous and unhelpful things to do.
Can antibiotics kill COVID-19?
No antibiotic can kill a virus. Antibiotics are only to be used when there is known, documented co-infection with bacteria.
Can I use my own hand sanitizer?
If you are not able to wash your hands with water, second best is hand sanitizer. However, it's important to use the right type and amount of hand sanitizer for it to be effective. You need a quarter- to a half dollar-size amount of hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. You can certainly try making your own, as there are many recipes online, including one from the World Health Organization.
Stay informed on COVID-19
Information is rapidly changing with respect to COVID-19, so it's important to get information from credible sources such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), World Health Organization and Mayo Clinic. -- Gregory Poland, M.D., Vaccine Research Group, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota
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