Covid Quackery

Don’t try this at home! Latest medical myths exposed as COVID restrictions are extended thru June 4th. 

Coronavirus is a vexing bugger, indeed. Just when we think it’s a respiratory illness, we discover evidence it’s also circulatory. It looks like there’s even a lethal childhood strain. The more people survive, the clearer it appears that herd immunity is no guarantee. Seems the global scientific community has stopped working on other stuff and is now united against this viral terror, of the most confusing sort.

Since there’s so much uncertainty about what COVID-19 is, for now let’s focus on what it’s not.

First — it’s NOT flu. Although it shares some qualities with seasonal flu, coronavirus has significant differences. For instance, it’s far more deadly (killing 3.4% of those infected, compared to about 0.1% for the flu, according to the WHO) and more contagious (a typical CV sufferer infects 2-3 others, nearly double the flu’s transmission rate).

Why is it worse?

While other types of coronaviruses (like the common cold) have been around for a while, COVID-19 is a new coronavirus that hasn’t affected humans until now. So none of us have any natural immunity.

Plus the virus is a sneaky contagion — half of those infected never show symptoms. And even when you do get sick, it’s often one or two weeks after you were exposed which means all that time you were spreading the virus to everyone you came into contact with. To top it all off, coronavirus is still mutating! A new strain identified April 14th throws into question whether a vaccine (if discovered) could be an effective long-term therapy. Herd immunity? Maybe not.

Countless articles are being published all the time; by now we all have our favorite sources for information such as the CDC and PA’s Department of Health. Along with this wave of information, though, there’s also been a real clown car full of rumors, myths and panic. Starting with the head joker, himself, directing the country’s top health experts to “look into” disinfecting humans from the inside. Talk about the cure being worse than the disease

Bad Medicine

Stop! Before you do something stupid, call Philadelphia’s Coronavirus Helpline at 800-722-7112. Medical staff are available 24/7 to address all your COVID-19 questions and concerns.

In addition, we’ve collected a list of useless (and potentially harmful) advice from community Facebook groups and other local hubs. None of these tips will cure, prevent, ward off or otherwise keep you safe from the coronavirus — although some of them are kind of funny.


1. Hand dryers can kill coronavirus (CV)  Nope. The best way to protect yourself is to wash your hands frequently (or clean them with an alcohol-based hand rub – at least 60% alcohol content), then dry them thoroughly with paper towels.

2. An ultraviolet disinfection lamp can kill CV  Hospitals use UV light to kill microbes on surfaces, not skin. UV lamps should never be used to sterilize your skin, as they can cause intense skin irritation.

3. Thermal scanners are effective in detecting infected people   Thermal scanners can detect fevers in those infected with CV, but they can’t detect the infection in those who haven’t yet shown symptoms (when it’s at its most transmissible). Why? “Because it takes 2 – 14 days before infected people become sick and develop a fever,” the World Health Organization (WHO) explains. Note: The flu has similar symptoms to CV, including a fever – just because you’ve got a high temp doesn’t mean you’re infected.

4. Pneumonia vaccines can protect you  Currently there is no vaccine to protect you against CV – including pneumonia vaccines. “The virus is so new and different that it needs its own vaccine,” the WHO explains.

5. It isn’t safe to receive mail from China  False. “People receiving packages from China are not at risk of contracting the virus,” said the WHO. “From previous analysis, we know coronaviruses do not survive long on objects, such as letters or packages.”

6. Pets can spread the virus  The WHO confirms that there is no evidence currently that your domesticated animals can be infected with or spread CV. **UPDATE**See how fast information changes? Since we started writing this article,new reports suggest that cats and even dogs can test positive for coronavirus. Experts are still saying we shouldn’t be worried, though.  (But that’s on y’all.) 

7. African Americans can’t be infected by the virus   Several African-American NBA basketball players have tested positive for CV (prompting the league to suspend the season), and several cases have turned up among native populations in both African and Caribbean countries, puncturing any theory that black people are immune to the disease. **UPDATE** Umm, actually, evidence now shows that people of color are suffering the worst affects of coronavirus.

Graphic by Chris (Simpsons artist)

8. Washing in or consuming alcohol/chlorine/disinfectants can cure COVID  Alcohol and chlorine are great for disinfecting surfaces, but using them on your body isn’t going to kill the virus if you’ve already been infected.

9. Regularly rinsing your nose with saline can help prevent infection  While regularly rinsing your nose with saline may help you recover more quickly from the common cold, it hasn’t been shown to help prevent respiratory infections in general, including coronavirus. (It might help ease symptoms, though.)

IMPORTANT: If you do use a neti pot to treat cold symptoms, use distilled (or boiled) water. Never use tap water, which can increase your risk of infection. And expose you to brain-eating amoebas!

10. Eating garlic can help prevent infection   Despite having some antimicrobial properties, “there is no evidence” from the current outbreak that it will protect you from the virus, according to the WHO. (However, you probably want to keep some garlic around anyway, in case we awaken vampires this year or something.)

11. Slathering yourself in sesame oil can ward off CV  Oh, come on. It’ll make your skin feel great, but sesame oil has no antiviral properties. (Can’t believe I just typed that)

12. CV only affects older people  Unfortunately, people of all ages can be infected by the virus. However, “older people, and people with pre-existing medical conditions (such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease) appear to be more vulnerable to severe illness or dying from the virus,” the WHO points out. Heads up young people: CV might not bother you at all, but you could pass it along to older folks.

**UPDATE** Recent reports seem to indicate that doctors are seeing an influx of young patients with strokes who are testing positive for coronavirus.

13. Antibiotics are effective in preventing and treating CV   Antibiotics do not work against viruses of any kind – only bacteria. In fact, there are no specific medications recommended to treat or prevent the virus.

Other bullshit cures and preventatives: 

  • Consuming boiled ginger on an empty stomach
  • Turmeric water and milk laced with pepper
  • Red soap (more germicidal than soaps of other colors?)
  • White handkerchiefs
  • Exposure to sunlight, drinking warm water or heating a room to between 79–81 °F
  • Steam inhalation
  • Juice of bittergourd (a nutritious vegetable but no miracle cure)
  • Ingesting industrial methanol. Iran reported almost 600 deaths and 3,000 hospitalized from this “cure”
  • Cocaine (it’ll definitely boost your mood though!)
  • Colloidal silver solution (but it’ll turn your skin blue and can lead to poor absorption of some medicines, including antibiotics)
  • Miracle Mineral Solution aka “MMS” aka “chlorine dioxide” aka bleach. Promoters claim drinking can cure COVID and cancer. Nope – but it can ensure severe vomiting and diarrhea, life-threatening low blood pressure caused by dehydration, and acute liver failure.
  • Drinking lemon with water (also doesn’t work for cancer)
  • Gargling salt water, drinking hot liquids like tea and avoiding ice cream
  • Stay at home on days when helicopters spray disinfectant over homes for killing off COVID
  • Hand sanitizer made from mixing rum, bleach and fabric softener
  • Tito’s Vodka as a germicidal
  • Eating/chewing/consuming garlic, ginger or onions
  • Drinking water every 15 minutes
  • Bananas (they do strengthen the immune system but not against novel viruses)
  • Taking six deep breaths and then coughing by covering one’s mouth. (JK Rowling, author of the Harry Potter books, helped hype this nonsense)
  • Tea containing the stimulants methylxanthine, theobromine and theophylline
  • Essential oils. Lemon oil, frankincense, oregano oil, melaleuca oil have all been irresponsibly touted to prevent COVID. Big hand to Iranian cleric Ayatollah Tabrizian for dreaming up the kinkiest bunk yet: he swears a smear of violet oil on your anus before going to bed will clear you right up (umm, it won’t, freak).


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