FACT CHECK: Drinking Water Can Wash Away and Prevent Coronavirus?

FACT CHECK: Drinking Water Can Wash Away and Prevent Coronavirus?


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Welton Wang
Managing Editor
Contributor on The Bipartisan Press

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In light of the ongoing coronavirus, various statements and posts have been posted to social media sites, offering conspiracies to explain the virus, to purported “ways” to self-diagnose yourself, to, most recently, so-called “advice” from a Japanese doctor apparently treating the coronavirus that recommended drinking water every 15 minutes to prevent the virus,

According to the post, drinking water will “wash down” the virus into your stomach, where the acid will kill it.

Below is the full message being posted to multiple Facebook groups:

AS RECEIVED: The new NCP coronavirus may not show sign of infection for many days, how can one know if he/she is infected. By the time they have fever and/or cough and goes to the hospital, the lungs is usually 50 % Fibrosis and it’s too late!

Taiwan experts provide a simple self-check that we can do every morning:

Take a deep breath and hold your breath for more than 10 seconds. If you complete it successfully without coughing, without discomfort, stuffiness or tightness etc it proves there is no fibrosis in the lungs, basically indicating no infection.

In critical times, please self-check every morning in an environment with clean air!

SERIOUS EXCELLENT ADVICE by Japanese doctors treating COVID-19 cases. Everyone should ensure your mouth & throat is moist, never DRY. Take a few sips of water every 15 mins at least. WHY? Even if the virus gets into your mouth…drinking water or other liquids will WASH them down through your oesophagus and into the stomach. Once there in tummy…your stomach ACID will kill all the virus. If you don’t drink enough water more regularly…the virus can enter your windpipes and into the LUNGS. That’s very dangerous.

Pls send and share with family, friends and everyone about this ! Take care everyone n may the world recovers from corona virus soon. May all be well n happy ????

A fact-check by the Taiwan Fact-Check Center already reported that the so-called self-diagnosis method is inaccurate, saying that, “…this rumor is an error message […] the inflammation of the lungs caused by the infection [coronavirus] usually starts with cough, fever, and sputum, and there is no sudden lung fibrosis without symptoms […] only a hospital can confirm lung condition.” (rough translation)

There was also no record of any expert recommending to “hold your breath” to check for the coronavirus. In fact, according to Dr. Robert Legare Atmar, an infectious disease specialist at Baylor College of Medicine, there is no evidence that the new coronavirus causes fibrosis.

A message similar to the second part was debunked by Snopes, which found that “No evidence exists to indicate that any public health authority is officially advising the public that a dry throat makes individuals more vulnerable to contracting the virus and that therefore drinking water is an effective prevention method.”

While drinking water does help bolster your immune system overall, there is currently no observed benefit of drinking water specifically in regards to the prevention and treatment of the coronavirus.

AP Fact Check also conducted a fact check, finding the claim to be false, and cited Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University who said that while medical professionals typically recommend keeping up fluid intake when sick, drinking more water will not keep anyone from catching the virus.

We also reached out to Dr. David Belk, a board-certified internist, and researcher at True Cost of Health Care, in regards to the validity of drinking water to prevent the coronavirus and the reason for it being false.

Dr. Belk immediately described the claim as false, adding “Coronaviruses, like most upper respiratory viruses, usually causes common colds by attacking the upper airways, which include the sinuses, upper bronchi, and pharynx, all of which are extremely moist all of the time.”

“This particular coronavirus is different from the ones that cause common colds in that it can attack the lower respiratory tract deep in the lungs which is how it causes acute respiratory distress. The lungs, like the upper airways, are extremely moist all of the time. How would moisture in the throat inhibit any virus that naturally targets such moist tissues as the upper airways and lungs?”

UPDATE: Dr. Belk has also added, “It’s simply not possible to “wash” all potential viruses entering your mouth or nose into your stomach. Viruses infect people by latching onto, then infecting target cells in our bodies. They do this quickly and effectively. A sip of water, or even a big gulp of water, won’t stop them from doing what they’re naturally programmed to do.”

If you see this post on social media, we recommend you report it to help stop misinformation.

Coronavirus Questions? Let Us Answer Them

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  • comment-avatar
    Nagarajan March 3, 2020

    The topic under consideration is “washing down of the virus into the stomach where it gets killed by the HCL there? Not much emphasis is made about keeping it moist. It is washing down the oesophagus.”
    Is is part true or not is the question to be addressed. Unfortunately, this is not addressed here.

    • comment-avatar

      As we state in the article, the entirety of the message is false. The “Japanese doctors treating the coronavirus” don’t exist. There is no such recommendation by any major health agency or doctor.

  • comment-avatar
    John Ragin March 3, 2020

    The claim may indeed be false and major health agencies may not support the claim but the explanation as to why it is false is misdirected. Is it not true that the virus can get trapped by mucous in the mouth and throat? Isn’t that partly what mucous is for? Why would drinking water not wash the virus safely into the acidic stomach? The claim is NOT that a moist throat prevents virus infection. It makes one wonder if Mr. Wang or the responding doctors that he asked properly understood the claim.

    • comment-avatar

      Well first off, the fact that there have absolutely been no doctors recommending drinking water should be enough to prove this. After all, if this was really true and worked, why wouldn’t a single doctor promote this to save hundreds of thousands of lives?

      But, to answer your question, I’m not an MD, but as Dr. Belk wrote, the virus predominantly attacks an area that already is moist and has lots of mucus. Paper have detailed how virus, specifically respitory ones are able to penetrate and replicate in mucus in order to target the host. Since the Coronavirus natively targets mucus heavy membrane, it is specifically engineered to be able to bypass the mucus layer.

      I understand there may be cause for confusion, I reached out to Dr. Belk again. He writes:
      “It’s simply not possible to “wash” all potential viruses entering your mouth or nose into your stomach. Viruses infect people be latching onto, then then infecting target cells in our bodies. They do this quickly and effectively. A sip of water, or even a big gulp of water, won’t stop them from doing what they’re naturally programed to do”

  • comment-avatar
    Wayne Jamison March 6, 2020

    But why completely write it off as false. Sounds to me like it could at least help to fight it off. Nobody actually says “no this is not even a possibility.” Has any doctors anywhere even researched this at all? Just saying, what’s wrong with at least trying it, giving everyone a hope or a fictitious preventative for their own mindstate could be enough for at least their own comfort. Not like we’re not lied to enough about what’s really going on anyway.

    • comment-avatar

      We are writing it as false because it is false.

      I assume you are reffering to drinking water to prevent COVID-19?

      Doctors and immunologist are saying this is false because it’s simply not the way a virus works and infects. Therefore it makes no sense to research and study extensively this because science says this cannot and will not be effective.

      The purpose of the article is a fact check. That means assesing a claim for factuality. If the claims doesn’t check out scientifically, it’s false.

      Giving everyone false “hope” or pretending that it works when it doesn’t is irresponsible and misleading. Not to mention, if people have a false sense of security it can be potentially dangerous.

      Look at China’s attempt to censor and give false security and how well that turned out.

  • comment-avatar
    Going nuts in LA March 6, 2020

    My boss just sent this false news to the entire company in an email blast. How can I reply letting them know it’s fake and they should send a retraction without losing my job?

  • comment-avatar
    Jeff Green March 6, 2020

    Oh, come on Winston. The poor guy even admits he accepts lies as the truth and states, “Not like we’re not lied to enough about what’s really going on anyway.” You know that he would believe anything, because he does not know the difference and feels hopeless. Logic just won’t work.

  • comment-avatar

    I am not a doctor, but since this virus is airborne my thought is that folks are breathing COVID-19 into the lungs and therefore drinking anything is a mute point. Some of the viruses might get stuck in our airways before reaching the lungs and some would make it into the lungs, particularly the deep portion of the lungs.

  • comment-avatar
    Roy Upton April 9, 2020

    It is difficult to read blogs like this. The answers provided are as anecdotal as the initial question being asked. None of the responses cite credible scientific evidence that drinking water does not reduce the propensity for reducing the propensity of viral invasion. Not having credible scientific evidence to prove something is factual is not the same as proving something is false. If there is a credible scientific study that demonstrates drinking water has absolutely no benefit it would be good to cite the research rather than to dismiss it woithout evidence. There is clinical evidence showing that zinc can help to prevent coronavirus attachment, viral replication, the severity and duration of flu, and can reduce mortality of severe pneumonia. WHule benefits are seen mostly in those who are deficient but many, especially the elderly and vegetarians, are. No expert is providing this guidance. So much for expenses.

    Prasad AS. 2007. Zinc: mechanisms of host defense. J Nutr. May;137(5):1345-9.

    Read SA, Obeid S, Ahlenstiel C, Ahlenstiel GG. 2019. The role of zinc in antiviral immunity. Adv Nutr. 2019 Jul 1;10(4):696-710. doi: 10.1093/advances/nmz013

    Velthuis te AJW, van den Worm, SHE, Sims AC, Baric RS, Snijder EJ, Hemert MJv. 2010. Zn2+ Inhibits Coronavirus and Arterivirus RNA Polymerase Activity In Vitro and Zinc Ionophores Block the Replication of These Viruses in Cell Culture. PLoS Pathog. Nov; 6(11): e1001176. Published online 2010 Nov 4. doi: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1001176