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Nov 03, 2021
7 min read

Coronavirus myths busted

Does the COVID-19 vaccine cause infertility? Should you try ivermectin to treat your COVID infection? Does the vaccine contain a tracking device? The answer to all of these is “no.” Here are the top coronavirus myths, how they came to be, and the real story behind them.

linnea zielinski

Reviewed by Yael Cooperman, MD

Written by Linnea Zielinski

Important

Information about the novel coronavirus (the virus that causes COVID-19) is constantly evolving. We will refresh our novel coronavirus content periodically based on newly published peer-reviewed findings to which we have access. For the most reliable and up-to-date information, please visit the CDC website or the WHO’s advice for the public.

Perhaps the only thing that spread faster than COVID since the start of the pandemic is myths about the virus and how to treat it. And while some of these myths may be harmless, others can be dangerous or even deadly. Unfortunately, the viral nature of misinformation keeps it front and center on social media, increasing its reach and perpetuating problematic rumors. 

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MYTH: The COVID-19 vaccines can cause infertility

Truth: The COVID-19 vaccines do not cause infertility—but severe COVID infection might.

One ex-employee of Pfizer raised a storm in 2020 when he claimed that the mRNA vaccines against COVID-19 might cause infertility, though he admitted there was no evidence it was true (Sajjadi, 2021). In May, 2020 he tweeted that “there wouldn’t be a second wave,” claiming it was “biologically and mathematically implausible.” No evidence was found to support any of his claims, but the damage was done. His words were shared widely and studies have shown that one in eight people in the UK who have chosen not to be vaccinated have heard that the vaccine causes infertility.

Despite his claims, there has been no link shown between vaccines and infertility. During the Pfizer and Moderna trials, 53 people became pregnant after receiving the vaccine (Male, 2021). 

Infection with coronavirus, however, might cause infertility. There is evidence that inflammation from severe COVID can damage the ovaries and testes. Some studies have linked COVID-19 to decreased sperm count (Renu, 2021; Rajak, 2021). 

MYTH: Ivermectin is a treatment for COVID-19

Truth: Ivermectin has not been shown to be an effective treatment for COVID-19, and unregulated use of this drug can be dangerous and even deadly. 

Ivermectin is a medication used to treat parasitic infections like intestinal worms. And while there has been research evaluating the use of this and other existing medications as treatments for COVID-19, there is currently no data from clinical trials to show that it works. 

One small study on monkey kidney cells used massive doses of the drug and found that it destroyed the virus in those cells, but research in humans hasn’t been as promising. Many of the more favorable studies have been proven flawed, but the ivermectin train seems to be difficult to stop.

While treatment would normally be limited by the inaccessibility of prescription drugs like this one, ivermectin is readily available from farm animal supply stores, and Americans have taken advantage. Unfortunately, ivermectin doses meant for livestock are different than those meant for humans, and taking this drug without the guidance of a healthcare professional can have dangerous side effects. 

Ivermectin interferes with the action of other medications and, on its own, can cause allergic reactions, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, balance problems, seizures, and even death. Many people have become sick from the drug, sometimes critically enough to require hospitalization (FDA, 2021). 

Until clinical trials prove that the drug is effective and determine safe and effective medication dosages, ivermectin is not recommended for the treatment of COVID-19. 

MYTH: Spraying chlorine/rubbing alcohol on your body can cure coronavirus

Truth: Rubbing or spraying cleaning products—whether that’s chlorine or rubbing alcohol—will not kill viruses already inside your body. Even worse, doing so may be harmful to your health. 

Many detergents contain chlorine. You can use chlorine to clean surfaces in your home but keep it away from your body. It can cause a rash or reaction, and it will not prevent you from being infected with coronavirus. 

Alcohol is a component of hand sanitizers. Cleaning your hands with an alcohol-based sanitizer for at least 20 seconds is an important safety measure after touching contaminated objects, but spraying it on your body or consuming it will not kill a virus that’s inside your cells and can be dangerous. 

MYTH: Inhaling bleach fumes or drinking bleach cures coronavirus

Truth: This is similar to the previous myth. Bleach is used to clean surfaces in your home but should remain outside of your body. Inhaling bleach fumes or ingesting bleach does not kill viruses that are already inside you. These chemicals can cause severe damage to your internal organs and even lead to death (WHO, 2021b).

MYTH: Ultraviolet light can kill coronavirus

Truth: Ultraviolet (UV) light can kill COVID that’s circulating in the air or on surfaces, but there’s no evidence that it can kill COVID in your body (Sabino, 2020). 

Too much UV light can be dangerous. UV radiation may cause skin irritation, so you should not use UV sterilization lamps on your hands or other parts of your skin (WHO, 2021b). UV light can also damage your eyes and lead to skin cancer. 

MYTH: The vaccine contains a tracking device

Truth: The vaccine does not contain a microchip or tracking device. 

It’s not clear where this misinformation came from, but it is incorrect. The vaccine is not capable of monitoring your activities or tracking where you go. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has a list of all ingredients contained in the vaccines here (CDC, 2021c; CDC,2021d). 

MYTH: Hot weather prevents the transmission of the virus

Truth: COVID-19 spreads even in hot weather. 

There’s certainly a trend where people catch more bugs in the winter, but it’s mostly because we spend more time indoors with the windows shut, making it more likely that we catch a bug from people in our proximity. (The same is true of airplanes—the recycled air and close proximity are the reason that people get sick when they travel.) And while there was some speculation that COVID would carry that same seasonality, the reality has been different. 

The second wave of COVID in the United States hit hard and fast at the peak of summer (from July to August of 2020). So while no type of weather can kill the virus—it spreads whether it is hot, humid, cold, or snowy—following safety guidelines and vaccine recommendations are always a good bet.  You should still follow safety guidelines, such as social distancing, masking when indicating, and washing your hands, even if the weather is hot (WHO, 2021b). 

MYTH: Regularly rinsing your nose with saline can prevent coronavirus

Truth: There is no evidence that rinsing your nose with saline can prevent coronavirus. 

You can help reduce your risk of catching coronavirus by following proper hand hygiene before touching your mouth, nose, or eyes, all of which have mucosal linings where the virus can enter. 

MYTH: Masks cause carbon dioxide (CO2) intoxication

Truth: Wearing a mask doesn’t make you retain carbon dioxide (CO2). 

Most masks are not air-tight and will allow some air to escape. In addition, small particles like oxygen and CO2 can filter in and out through tiny pores in the mask. Droplets of COVID-19, on the other hand, are too big to sift through these pores, so they remain outside the mask (CDC, 2021d). 

Arm yourself with accurate information

As we continue to learn more and more about COVID infection, prevention, and treatment, it can be difficult to distinguish facts from rumors. Misinformation spreads rapidly and can be very dangerous. When in doubt, speak to your healthcare provider for advice or clarification. 

References

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  (2021a, September 8). 2019-nCoV Frequently Asked Questions and Answers. Retrieved September 11, 2021, from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/faq.html
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (2021b, June 8). COVID-19 & Antibiotic Resistance. Retrieved September 11, 2021,from https://www.cdc.gov/drugresistance/covid19.html
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (2021c, October 4). Myths and Facts about COVID-19 Vaccines. Retrieved November 1, 2021, from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/facts.html?s_cid=11356:can%20covid%20vaccine%20give%20you%20covid:sem.ga:p:RG:GM:gen:PTN:FY21
  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (2021d, October 25). Your Guide to Masks. Retrieved November 1, 2021, from ​​https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/about-face-coverings.html
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  6. Figueiredo, C. P., Fontes-Dantas, F. L., da Poian, A. T., & Clarke, J. R. (2021). SARS-CoV-2-associated cytokine storm during pregnancy as a possible risk factor for neuropsychiatric disorder development in post-pandemic infants. Neuropharmacology, 108841. Advance online publication. doi:10.1016/j.neuropharm.2021.108841. Retrieved from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0028390821003968?casa_token=dOQaEpBkbrIAAAAA:3QUERmO2P5uybEKiryMWdegMCGh4kruIQ_oGAgwJ_u0e6p8Oym-7Ke5Dnc65M1GBfM-fYjSn
  7. Male V. (2021). Are COVID-19 vaccines safe in pregnancy?. Nature Reviews. Immunology, 21(4), 200–201. doi:10.1038/s41577-021-00525-y. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7927763/
  8. Rajak, P., Roy, S., Dutta, M., Podder, S., Sarkar, S., Ganguly, A., et al. (2021). Understanding the cross-talk between mediators of infertility and COVID-19. Reproductive biology, 21(4), 100559. Advance online publication. doi:10.1016/j.repbio.2021.100559. Retrieved from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1642431X21000802#bib0765
  9. Renu, K., Subramaniam, M. D., Chakraborty, R., Myakala, H., Iyer, M., Bharathi, G., Siva, K., Vellingiri, B., & Valsala Gopalakrishnan, A. (2020). The role of Interleukin-4 in COVID-19 associated male infertility – A hypothesis. Journal of Reproductive Immunology, 142, 103213. doi: 10.1016/j.jri.2020.103213. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33080435/
  10. Sabino, C. P., Ball, A. R., Baptista, M. S., Dai, T., Hamblin, M. R., Ribeiro, M. S., et al. (2020). Light-based technologies for management of COVID-19 pandemic crisis. Journal of Photochemistry and Photobiology. B, Biology, 212, 111999. doi:10.1016/j.jphotobiol.2020.111999. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7435279/
  11. Sajjadi, N. B., Nowlin, W., Nowlin, R., Wenger, D., Beal, J. M., Vassar, M., et al. (2021). United States internet searches for “infertility” following COVID-19 vaccine misinformation. Journal of Osteopathic Medicine, 121(6), 583–587. doi: 10.1515/jom-2021-0059. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33445581/
  12. U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). (2021). Why You Should Not Use Ivermectin to Treat or Prevent COVID-19. Retrieved on September 23, 2021, from https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/why-you-should-not-use-ivermectin-treat-or-prevent-covid-19
  13. World Health Organization (WHO). WHO-convened Global Study of Origins of SARS-CoV-2:China, Joint WHO-China Study, 14 January-10 February 2021. (2021a). Retrieved September 11, 2021, from https://www.who.int/publications/i/item/who-convened-global-study-of-origins-of-sars-cov-2-china-part
  14. World Health Organization (WHO). Myth busters. (2021b, May 5). Retrieved September 11, 2021, from https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public/myth-busters