Social media, papers, word of mouth are sources of bogus information
Amidst the raging Covid-19 pandemic, people’s fear of getting infected is driving them to unproven and unscientific remedies.
Amrutha Palacharla, who works for a private company in Telangana, informed The Observer: “It is always recommended to drink hot water with honey as it helps in fighting Covid-19. Also, people believe that eating non-veg is good for Covid patients, but from what I heard, it has a lot of side-effects, so we stopped consuming non-veg.”
Smithraj Karna, a BTech student from Odisha, said: “Kaadha bana ke pi lo (make kaadha and drink it).” Kaadha is a drink made with herbs that is believed to boost immunity. He added that he was suffering from cold and fever, and afraid he had gotten Covid. Kaadha was effective in treating him.
Lack of proper guidance and correct information is leading people to believe such myths. A study published by BMJ Journal, brought out by the British Medical Association, said in March 2020 that more than a quarter of the top Covid-related videos on YouTube had misleading claims. They had more than 60 million views.
Hari Krishnan from Tamil Nadu who is preparing for government exams said: “I consume almonds, garlic, cashews and healthy food regularly. I heard this helps in preventing Covid-19.”
The sources of such myths are newspapers, word of mouth and social media sites. Sometimes even doctors recommend such remedies.
Swastik Shivasish, an MBBS student from Odisha, said he believes kaadha helps in Covid-19 treatment as he has read an article about it in a newspaper. His primary source of information is newspapers, he shared.
Manisha Panthulu, an employee of a private company in Telangana, said: “My entire family was infected with Covid-19. Later, we drank warm water regularly with kashayam (kaadha) every day and avoided food from the refrigerator.” She believes low temperature helps the virus to stay alive and heat kills it. These home remedies were recommended by a doctor.
The WHO website says myths are circulating about Covid treatment. One common belief is that hot weather ensures protection from Covid. However, as per WHO, one can catch Covid any time, irrespective of the weather. Countries with warm weather, like India, have reported a high number of Covid cases this summer.
Several studies and news articles say wearing a mask in a gym while exercising prevents Covid-19. However, WHO points out that sweating during exercise makes masks wet and difficult to breathe; it increases the growth of microorganisms. Instead of wearing masks, WHO has recommended maintaining social distancing while exercising.
Another such myth is that eating garlic prevents Covid. This has been proved to be wrong by WHO. Also, “hot peppers in your food, though very tasty, cannot prevent or cure Covid-19”.
Dr Raju Kumar, a general physician who treats Covid-19 patients, said: “Although a few remedies may boost immunity, they don’t protect an individual from Covid-19.” Some of these remedies, like drinking too much kaadha, may cause a burning sensation in the stomach and disrupt digestion. Consuming hot drinks does not kill the virus.
Dr Sreekanth Reddy, a psychiatrist, said: “Fear is an emotion that makes people believe anything. It is not difficult to fact-check information, but people usually don’t. Moreover, all the information available online is not so accurate.”
Most messages appeal to people as they appeal to their wishes. People accept myths and spread them without verifying them on the WHO or ICMR websites.