Drinking Warm Water and Robb Ointment Does Not Kill Coronavirus (COVID-19)
Dr Mahmoud Bukar Maina
Sunday, 29 March 2020
There is a message carrying several misconceptions going around on social media that drinking warm water, mixed with Robb ointment, kills Coronavirus (COVID-19). This is not true. We have analysed the message and busted the misconceptions.
The message shared on social media reads:
"Please, I beg you not to keep this to yourself, you can save lives. It's for Coronavirus. These are the symptoms of Coronavirus: 1. Dry throat 2. Dry cough 3. Itching throat 4. Sneezing uncontrollable and coughing. Please if you notice any of this in you don't hesitate to rush quickly and get hot water, mix with Robb and drink. Because the virus stays inside the human throat for at least 12 hours. If you don't act immediately as prescribed or recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO), that is when the virus will have the chance and opportunity to drive into your immune and body part, because at that time all your immune have gone weak, you can't stay more than 14 days on Earth."
Here is our analysis
Is drinking warm water mixed with Robb ointment helpful against COVID-19?
The Robb ointment is usually used for relief from the common cold, stuffy nose, headache and general body aches and pain. There is no evidence to suggest that drinking Robb ointment with warm water kills COVID-19. Instead, this can result in a serious health problem.
Robb ointment is not to be swallowed or place in the nostrils. Most Robb ointments contain Menthol, Camphor and Methyl Salicylate. If ingested in excess, all of these ingredients can lead to poisoning with significant impact on our health . When swallowed, Robb ointment can be dangerous to your health, and some of its constituents may result in death if taken in excess .
Based on the fabricated message, it would assume that when a person starts having the symptoms, he may have just been infected. Is this true?
Based on published findings at the Annals of Internal Medicine , on average, symptoms of COVID-19 develop just over five days. The findings further show that about 97.5% of people infected will develop symptoms within 11.5 days from the time when they were first infected. This shows that by the time a person starts showing the symptoms and is confirmed to have the disease, it means he would have lived for many days with the virus.
Does the COVID-19 stay in the throat for 12 hours?
There is no evidence to suggests that the virus stays in the throat for 12 hours. The virus resides inside cells, it doesn't just sit inside the throat such that it can be flushed by warm water. Professor Trudie Lang at the University of Oxford says there is "no biological mechanism" that would support the idea that you can just wash a respiratory virus down into your stomach and kill it." .
Did the WHO give the advice contained in the fabricated message?
1. Mount Sinai Health System. Menthol poisoning Information. [online]. Available at: https://www.mountsinai.org/health-library/poison/menthol-poisoning. Accessed on 29 March 2020.
2. Chyka, P.A. et al., 2007. Salicylate poisoning: an evidence-based consensus guideline for out-of-hospital management. Clinical toxicology, 45(2), pp.95-131. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17364628/
3. Manoguerra, A.S. et al., 2006. Camphor poisoning: an evidence-based practice guideline for out-of-hospital management. Clinical Toxicology, 44(4), pp.357-370. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/15563650600671696
4. Roxanne Khamsi, 2007. Muscle-rub blamed for athlete's death. New Scientist. Available at: https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn12040-muscle-rub-blamed-for-athletes-death/. Accessed on: 29 March 2020.
5. Lauer, S.A. et al. 2020. The incubation period of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) from publicly reported confirmed cases: estimation and application. Annals of internal medicine. https://annals.org/aim/fullarticle/2762808/incubation-period-coronavirus-disease-2019-covid-19-from-publicly-reported
6. BBC News. Six coronavirus health myths fact-checked. [online]. Available via: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-51735367. Accessed on: 29 March 2020.
Dr Mahmoud Bukar Maina is a Nigerian scientist, educator, and researcher, based at the University of Sussex in the United Kingdom. His research focuses on neurodegeneration. In addition to his research, Mahmoud is a passionate science communicator and performs outreach work to inspire young people in Africa to pursue science and to increase public understanding of science. He can be reached via @mahmoudbukar