Myths About COVID-19


Myths About COVID-19

There are many myths and a great deal of misinformation on the internet about COVID-19. Make sure you get your information from a trusted public health source such as the VDH, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the World Health Organization. Here are some common myths that are making their rounds on the internet and social media. 

Myths about COVID-19 Vaccines, Masks, and Staying at Home

  • COVID-19 Vaccines: Many myths are circulating on the internet about COVID-19 vaccines , such as that the vaccines make people get sick with COVID-19, vaccines alter your DNA, or vaccines cause infertility. These myths are simply not true. 
    • COVID-19 vaccines do not cause COVID-19. There are common side effects to getting the COVID-19 vaccine, like pain or swelling of the arm where you got the shot, fever, tiredness, or headache. These are all normal reactions that show your body is developing protection against COVID-19. These reactions do not mean that you got COVID-19 from the vaccine. None of the authorized and recommended COVID-19 vaccines in the United States contain the live virus that causes COVID-19. This means that a COVID-19 vaccine cannot make you sick with COVID-19.
    • COVID-19 vaccines do not alter your DNA. The two currently available vaccines (Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna) use mRNA to build protection against COVID-19. The mRNA never enters the nucleus of the cells (where your DNA is). So, it cannot change your DNA. The mRNA instructs your cells to make proteins that look like COVID-19 so your immune system can build antibodies to recognize and fight these proteins. COVID-19 mRNA vaccines work with the body’s natural defenses to safely develop immunity to disease.
    • COVID-19 vaccines do not cause infertility. There is no evidence that the COVID-19 vaccines cause infertility. There are limited data about COVID-19 vaccines in pregnant women and additional studies are being conducted. We do know that pregnant women are at higher risk of developing severe COVID-19 than others. Pregnant women with COVID-19 might also be more likely to have miscarriages than those who are not infected.  VDH recommends that pregnant and lactating women talk with their healthcare provider if they have questions about the vaccine or to discuss if the vaccine is right for them.
    • The COVID-19 vaccines that are authorized for emergency use during this pandemic have undergone careful evaluation in large-scale clinical trials to prove that they are both safe and effective at preventing serious illness from COVID-19. Check out the CDC’s Facts about COVID-19 Vaccines and VDH’s COVID-19 Vaccination FAQs to make sure you are getting accurate information from a credible source.
  • Masks, cloth face coverings and your immune system: There is no evidence that wearing a mask or cloth face cover can hurt your immune system. Face coverings help limit the amount of respiratory droplets that go into the air to help stop the spread of COVID-19. Doctors, nurses and other medical staff have been wearing face masks for decades. Disposable masks should be thrown away if they become wet or dirty, and should only be used one time. Cloth face coverings should be washed. See Using Masks to Slow the Spread of COVID-19  for more information.  
  • Masks, cloth face coverings and oxygen levels: There is no evidence that wearing a mask or cloth face covering can hurt your oxygen levels or cause you to breathe in dangerous levels of carbon dioxide. Unlike medical N95 respirators, disposable masks and cloth face coverings fit more loosely and air can pass through them. Face covers should not be worn when exercising, by children under two or anyone who has a health condition that makes it hard to breathe or take off their face cover without help. Wearing a face covering may feel weird or uncomfortable at first, because we are not used to it, and it can be a challenge if it's hot and humid or if your glasses fog up. If you are having a hard time breathing, your cloth mask might be too thick. See Using Masks to Slow the Spread of COVID-19  for more information.
  • Staying at home: There is no evidence that staying at home more during the COVID-19 outbreak can weaken the immune system (the part of your body that fights off germs). Our immune system is built up over many years and won’t suddenly stop working. Staying at home and being isolated from others can impact our health in other ways, though. Stress, depression, bad sleep patterns, lack of exercise, and eating unhealthy foods can all hurt the immune system. It’s important to work on healthy habits such as getting enough rest, managing stress, staying connected to friends and family, eating a healthy diet and exercising. Getting out into the fresh air can be good for both our bodies and our minds.

Myths about Food and Alcohol

  • Food: There is no evidence that people can get COVID-19 from eating food. You should not wash your food with bleach. It could burn your mouth, throat or stomach and make you sick.
  • Garlic and onions: Garlic and onions are healthy foods that may have some germ fighting abilities; however, there is no proof or evidence that eating them will protect you from or cure COVID-19.
  • Pepper: Pepper added to food does not protect you from or cure COVID-19.  Hot peppers might make your nose run so be sure to have tissues on hand when enjoying spicy food!
  • Alcohol:  Drinking alcohol (beer, wine, liquor) will not protect you from getting COVID-19.  Drinking too much can lead to many other health issues. Spending time in bars can increase your risk of being exposed to COVID-19, because people are often in close contact in bars for long periods of time.

Other Myths

  • Household cleaners: Drinking or breathing in household cleaners, bleach, or disinfectants will NOT work to prevent or kill the COVID-19 virus inside your body. These chemicals can cause injuries or poison you. Do not use these products on your skin. Soap and water are all you need to safely clean your skin.  
  • Ultraviolet light: Ultraviolet (UV) light or lamps should not be used to disinfect your skin. UV radiation can irritate or harm your skin and eyes. If you need to clean up, wash your hands with soap and water, use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol or take a shower and put on clean clothes. 
  • Mouthwashes: When the virus that causes COVID-19 enters the body, it is typically inhaled deep into the throat and lungs. Gargling with a mouthwash won’t prevent infection from virus particles that are inhaled into these deeper areas. 
  • Chloroquine and Hydroxychloroquine: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has stopped its approval for the use of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine for treating people with COVID-19. Research studies did not show that they were helpful in treating COVID-19 and there have been a number of serious and long lasting side effects, including heart damage, from the use of these drugs. 
  • 5G Networks: 5G networks did not cause the COVID-19 pandemic. Biological viruses cannot travel through radio waves or mobile networks. This conspiracy theory was started through an uploaded internet video which was later proven to be false.  
  • Hot Weather: Some people thought that COVID-19 would go away when the weather got hot, like the flu does each year. However, COVID-19 is not the flu and we now know that COVID-19 can easily spread during hot and humid weather. 
  • Shoes: The chance that COVID-19 could be spread by shoes is very low.  It’s a good idea to take shoes off at the door, especially if there are young children crawling or playing on the floor. This will keep dirt or germs from being brought into the house. Because older people are at higher risk for serious illness from COVID-19, many long-term care facilities (nursing homes and assisted living facilities) are having people sanitize their shoes before entering as an extra safety measure.

If you need help sorting out other COVID-19 facts and myths, visit the World Health Organization’s COVID-19 MythBusters page or WHO's Science in 5 on COVID-19 - Vaccine myths vs science

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Page last updated: February 11, 2021