COVID-19 Myths and Facts

Natalie Stein
July 31, 2020

The top story in the news for months has been COVID-19, but what do you really know about the disease? Rumors can spread like wildfire, but misinformation can be dangerous. These are some myths and facts related to what we currently know about COVID-19, with information from the World Health Organization (WHO) [1], Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) [2], Mayo Clinic [3], and Johns Hopkins [4].

Myth: Only “at-risk” groups should be concerned about COVID-19.

Fact: The risk for more serious cases of COVID-19 increases with age, and people with diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and certain other conditions are at higher risk for more severe cases. However, young, healthy adults with no apparent risk factors can end up hospitalized or worse. Some COVID-19 patients have experienced lingering symptoms for months, and there may be long-term consequences of COVID-19.

Even if they are not concerned about their own risk for COVID-19, healthy adults should know that if they are exposed to the virus, they can potentially become infected and spread it to others, including higher-risk people in their households or social circles. Young adults staying healthy is considered one of the keys to getting the pandemic under control. 

Myth: Children do not get COVID-19 and so can carry on normally.

Fact: Young children do seem to be at much lower risk for getting COVID-19 and for developing severe cases. However, children can get COVID-19, and some children who have gotten it have developed a serious condition called multi systemic inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C). 

Something we do not yet know is whether children can pass on COVID-19 even though they are apparently healthy. If so, they could potentially bring it home from school and pass it to their families, who could then further spread it in the community.

Myth: Masks should be worn during intense exercise.

Fact: Masks can impair breathing while running and during other intense forms of exercise. In addition, they can cause increased sweating, which can lead to increased growth of microorganisms. The safest alternative is to exercise away from other people.

Myth: COVID-19 is basically like a flu.

Fact: A quick look at the numbers shows that COVID-19 is far worse than the typical seasonal flu. For example, the 2019-2020 flu season in the U.S. included 39 to 56 million cases of the flu and 24,000 to 62,000 deaths related to it. In comparison, the COVID-19 pandemic had already struck 4 million people in the U.S. and claimed 150,000 lives by July. That is, COVID-19 is about 10 to 20 times more lethal than the flu, and it is apparently not slowing as a seasonal flu would in the summer.

Myth: Hydroxychloroquinone, bleach, methanol, ethanol, UV light, and antibiotics can protect you against COVID-19.

Fact: These “treatments” can be dangerous and are not effective against COVID-19. Chloroquinone does not reduce the risk of death from COVID-19, and using bleach, methanol, or ethanol or drinking these products can be harmful for fatal. So can using a UV lamp on yourself. Antibiotics only fight bacteria, not viruses such as the coronavirus, and would only be used for COVID-19 patients if they have also developed a bacterial infection.

Myth: It is safe to get together with friends as long as you have fewer than 10 people present.

Fact: Getting together with people who are not from your household can expose you to COVID-19 if someone at the gathering has it, even if they do not have symptoms. You can lower the risk by maintaining social distance of at least 6 feet from others and by wearing cloth face coverings, as well as by staying outside and not sharing food or utensils.

Myth: Masks are for sick people only.

Fact: Masks and other face coverings protect others by trapping your exhaled droplets, and they protect you by preventing droplets from others from getting to your nose and mouth. That is why experts are urging people to wear them anytime they may come within 6 feet of others.

Myth: You cannot catch COVID-19 while in the bright sunlight on a warm day.

Fact: COVID-19 infections can occur in any kind of weather and climate, whether hot, humid, cold, wet, or dry.

Myth: Dietary supplements can prevent COVID-19 infection.

Fact: Many supplements are marketed as effective immune system boosters. Examples include vitamin C, vitamin D, echinacea, and zinc. There is no evidence that they protect against COVID-19, and some can be harmful if taken inappropriately.

Myth: You are helpless against COVID-19.

Fact: Your actions greatly affect your own risk and the risk of others for getting COVID-19. Washing or sanitizing your hands frequently, wearing a face covering when you may be within 6 feet of people, avoiding crowds and indoor spaces where other people are nearby, and staying home when you can are all ways to lower everyone’s risk for COVID-19.

Natalie Stein

Exercise, Fitness & Nutrition Expert | Lark Health