FACT CHECK: Holding Breath for 10 Seconds Self Checks for Coronavirus?

FACT CHECK: Holding Breath for 10 Seconds Self Checks for Coronavirus?


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Welton Wang
Managing Editor
Contributor on The Bipartisan Press

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Circulating around Facebook and various Whatsapp chat groups are purported messages claiming that holding your breath for 10 seconds can be used as a “self-check” to see if you have coronavirus lung infection or COVID-19.

Messages have taken various forms, from claiming the method was developed by Taiwan doctors to Stanford.

Messages usually take the form of something along the lines of:

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!

These claims, however, are false.

That is, doing such a self check will give no indication of whether or not you have the coronavirus. Not only is there no evidence of any healthcare professional releasing such advice, Stanford released a statement saying they release no such advice.

50% Fibrosis?

First off, 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. Fibrosis is the scarring of the lungs resulting from cycles of tissue injury and repair.

While some people’s bodies get lung fibrosis from pneumonia, which the coronavirus does cause, Dr. Thomas Nash, an internist, pulmonologist, and infectious disease specialist at New York-Presbyterian Hospital says that “fibrosis takes months if not years to develop.”

Even if the coronavirus did cause fibrosis, you wouldn’t know until much later, most likely after the disease has subsided. Therefore, even if the self check of holding your breath for 10 seconds tested for lung fibrosis, it would properly diagnose the coronavirus.

Unfortunately, the self check won’t diagnose fibrosis or the coronavirus. A fact-check by the Taiwan Fact-Check Center and Dr. Nash both reported that its impossible to self diagnose lung fibrosis — you would need to go to a hospital to get tested.

If you can hold your breath for 10 seconds, no coronavirus?

The test is also not accurate for measuring lung health. Those with underlying lung conditions like asthma may not be able to hold their breath for 10 seconds — with or without the coronavirus.

Being able to hold your breath for 10 seconds doesn’t mean you are safe either. Most people who do have the coronavirus has very mild symptoms — similar to those of the flu or cold. If you do get it, your lung will most likely continue to work fine, and you’ll still be able to hold your breath for 10 seconds.

According to various preliminary studies from China data, most patients who develop severe lung pneumonia and undergo lung damage are elderly patients, 60 years or older.

In fact, there’s also been reports that you can be asymptomatic, meaning infected with the coronavirus but not showing symptoms. In such a case, any self check for the coronavirus would be utterly useless.

Is there a self check for the coronavirus?


If you think you may have the coronavirus or have been near someone who does, the only way you can find out is through a test at your local public health lab or from the CDC. Any other claims of being able to “self check” for the coronavirus are completely false and dangerously misleading.

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