As a physician, patients come to you seeking accurate information. Right now, myths about COVID-19 swirl around the internet. You need to set the record straight. The following nine myths expose the dangers of misinformation. Please correct these misconceptions for your patients to help keep them—and society as a whole—safer throughout the pandemic.
1. Warm Weather Means You Won’t Get Sick
Despite the differences, many people continue to equate COVID-19 with the common cold or flu. As such, they hope that once the spring weather gets into full swing, they won’t have to worry about catching the virus. Sadly, this supposition is likely false. While the weather has been indicated to impact immunity—dry, cold conditions dehydrate nasal passages, making it more likely to become infected—the bottom line is that a patient’s susceptibility to the virus outweighs all external factors. If the novel coronavirus follows a similar pattern as other infectious diseases, then yes, eventually, a seasonal pattern may emerge. In the meantime, though, for their safety and that of others, patients must continue to obey stay-at-home orders.
2. I’m Not Sick, So I Can’t Infect Others
Many patients mistakenly believe that they cannot infect other people if they remain asymptomatic. However, evidence suggests that COVID-19 can spread silently. Even if they feel healthy, taking precautions like masking up to go to the grocery store protects public health. Understandably, your patients might feel like they’re going stir-crazy. After all, they have to hunker down inside at a time of year when, typically, people emerge from hibernation! To help them manage the psychological stress, suggest they set up regular video and group chats using technologies like Zoom or FaceTime. They can also find online support groups to attend if they are struggling with mental health issues while quarantined.
3. There Is a COVID-19 Vaccine
Unfortunately, no vaccine exists yet to protect against the virus. It’s worth noting, however, that scientists announced a human trial of a possible candidate last month, and several other pharmaceutical giants have teamed up to join in the search. Oxford University researchers hope that a million doses will be available by September. While that may seem like a long time for some patients, they should understand that, typically, vaccine development can take up to a decade or longer. In the meantime, most projections believe immunization will become available by the middle of 2021. Advise your patients to remain, well, patient.
4. Children and Infants Are Safe
When the COVID-19 pandemic news broke, the fact that it targeted the elderly and those with medical conditions led many to mistakenly believe that children were immune from the virus. However, the tragic tale of one six-week-old baby tells doctors that people in any age bracket can fall ill and die from this disease. Many schools remain closed for the year—and perhaps longer—for a good reason. Advise your patients to take the same precautions for their kids as they should for themselves.
5. A Special Soap Is Needed to Kill Germs
Some patients mistakenly believe that they need to use an antibacterial soap to clean their hands from the virus. Advise them, that antibacterial soaps don’t do anything to fight viruses and that overuse of such products can damage one’s microbiome. The bottom line? Patients should know that washing with plain soap and water will do the trick.
6. Everyone Who Catches the Virus Dies
Any virus nasty enough to close businesses will inspire a ton of fear. While the death rate from the coronavirus varies by demographics, you can explain to patients that less than 10% of those infected will die, and that in those aged 0 to 39, the death rate is less than 1%. Please assure your patients that a diagnosis is not a death sentence.
7. Face Masks Keep You from Getting Sick
Unless they have an N95 mask—which should be saves for healthcare professionals with the exception of those who are severely at risk—patients should understand that the cloth masks they don to buy groceries isn’t for their protection, but instead for safeguarding those around them. Explain to patients that standard surgical masks do not prevent the virus from entering nasal passages but do, however, keep individuals from breathing, coughing, or sneezing on surfaces and contaminating them. Remind patients that asymptomatic carriers can spread the disease, so they should mask up if they must go out into public.
8. Antibiotics Will Cure COVID-19
It’s not uncommon for patients—despite being informed that antibiotics don’t fight viruses—to insist, “But doc, I feel better when you give me antibiotics.” This perception can arise from a secondary bacterial infection that the prescription does tackle, or it can occur due to the placebo effect. Continue to advise patients about antibiotic resistance.
9. You Should Avoid Chinese Products or Restaurants
A pandemic is no time for xenophobia. Sadly, many people who feel pain—including emotional angst—seek out a target to blame. Already, Asian-Americans have experienced a surge in hate crimes, and misinformation helps prejudice flourish. Please advise your patients that their order of moo goo gai pan won’t sicken them any more than a takeout burger or calzone. If they order products from overseas, they need to take no more precautions than they would with domestic deliveries.
As a physician, a major part of your job is conveying medically accurate, evidence-based information to your patients. Inform them about the truth behind the many myths surrounding COVID-19 and everyone will be better off for it!