Science educator Nanogirl stops the spread of some coronavirus myths

Source: 1News

It's not just coronavirus that's spreading but urban myths about it, including one theory that you can hold your breath to ascertain whether you have the respiratory illness.

Seven Sharp reporter Carolyn Robinson ran a few of the most virulent strains of myth past scientist Michelle Dickinson, also known as Nanogirl.

One of the theories she debunked includes the belief that taking a deep breath and holding it for 10 seconds without coughing or discomfort every morning proves you do not have the virus, which Dr Dickinson called "not a great test" as people with the illness do not necessarily have issues with their lungs. 

"I've seen this one and it looks authentic because it comes from a ‘Japanese doctor’ and so you're like, ‘Oh, it's from overseas, it must be true!’” Dr Dickinson said.

“Look, this is all about having fibrosis in the lungs, which is basically scar tissue, which late-onset coronavirus can produce, but actually, this is not a great test.

“The chances are that you can have coronavirus and not have any issue with your lungs right now, so don't use this as your test. If you do have challenges with your lungs and you can't hold your breath, it might be due to all sorts of other medical conditions, and it's not a great test for coronavirus."

Dr Dickinson also rubbished claims drinking water often will wash down the virus from your mouth to your stomach, where it will be killed by digestive acid before it can reach your windpipe or lungs.

"Drink water often. Yes, we should all stay hydrated. Don't do that to kill the virus,” she said.

“You have two holes in your throat: one of them is to go to your respiratory system. Water can't go down there or you'll drown. The other one is to go down to your stomach.

"The virus is set to actually stick to the mucus and go into the hole which doesn't go to your stomach, so rinsing it is not going to help you at all."

She also debunked claims that washing hands is ineffective, and is only being done to make others feel better or more proactive, calling soap “the best and cheapest thing you can do to stay safe".

"People think a bar of soap, it's cheap, how can this be the thing that's helping stop the virus?” she said.

“This is the best thing. The reason being is soap is actually made up of molecules - everything's made out of molecules and atoms - and the type of molecules in a soap, they're called a polar molecule."

Polar molecules mean that "each end is different from the other end", she said. In soap, one end loves water, while the other hates water and loves fat.

The outside of coronavirus is surrounded by a lipid bilayer, or two coatings of fat. 

"If we can get rid of this fat layer, then we destroy the virus," Dr Dickinson said.

"So imagine you're washing your hands with soap, you've got this virus on your hands and you have your soap.

"Now, your soap with the water is going to turn itself around so that the bit that doesn't like the water is hiding from the water. It loves fat, so loves the virus. It's going to try and find its way into the virus fat layer and when it does that, it bursts the hole in the fat layer.

"It bursts a hole in the virus, the soap did that, your virus is now destroyed, and now you've rinsed it off your hands.

"It's so simple, and it's all to do with the polar nature of the molecules of soap. It is literally the best and cheapest thing that you can do to stay safe."