COVID-19 and the Dangers of Self-Medicating - ChemicalSafetyFacts.org
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COVID-19 has been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO). As of August 2020, more than 18 million cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed globally and more than 685,000 people have died from it.

Heightened concerns about COVID-19 have caused some people to self-medicate to try to kill the virus or prevent contracting it.

What is Self-Medication?

Self-medicating is when an individual uses or attempts to self-administer a substance in the form of treatment for a physical or psychological ailment.

Presently, there are no drugs or other therapeutics approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to prevent or treat COVID-19. Advice found on some social media sites about self-medicating against COVID-19 may be inaccurate and can result in chemical poisoning and fatalities.

Dangers of Self-Medication Using Household Products

Below are a few of the most common examples of self-medication using household products against COVID-19. These examples have NOT been medically approved as safe OR effective treatments for, or prevention against, COVID-19:

Drinking Chlorine Dioxide  

The FDA  has warned consumers not to drink chlorine dioxide products sold online as medical treatments such as Miracle Mineral Solution or MMS . Ingesting these products can have life-threatening consequences including respiratory failure, fatal abnormal heart rhythms, low blood pressure caused by dehydration, acute liver failure, low blood cell counts and severe vomiting.

Consuming Excessive Amounts of Alcohol 

The World Health Organization (WHO) warns that consuming products containing ethanol alcohol, an ingredient in alcoholic beverages, will not protect or prevent someone from being infected with COVID-19. Alcohol has short- and long-term effects on almost every organ in the body, can weaken the immune system and reduce the body’s ability to cope with infectious disease. In addition, heavy use of alcohol increases the risk of acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS)—one of the most severe complications of COVID-19.

Gargling Diluted Bleach Solutions

The WHO has also stated that drinking bleach, methanol and ethanol is extremely dangerous.  An Internet panel survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that 4 percent of respondents consumed or gargled diluted bleach solutions, soapy water and other disinfectants in an effort to protect themselves from the COVID-19. The survey identified knowledge gaps about the safe preparation, use and storage of cleaners and disinfectants.

A third of survey respondents misused cleaners and disinfectants with the intent of preventing COVID-19 transmission by using bleach on food products, applying household cleaning and disinfectant products to skin, and inhaling or ingesting cleaners and disinfectants. Learn more about the safety and uses of chlorine bleach.

Drinking Excessive Amounts of Water to Flush Out the Virus 

In March 2020, BBC Future published an article highlighting the rumor that drinking excessive amounts of water is an effective way to flush the coronavirus out of the body. This is not a proven method to combat COVID-19, and water intoxication can cause confusion, disorientation, nausea and vomiting.

Approved Uses for Chlorine Dioxide, Ethanol and Chlorine Bleach

Chlorine dioxide has a variety of antimicrobial uses, including the disinfection of drinking water. It is also used as an antimicrobial agent in water used in poultry processing and to wash produce. Chlorine dioxide is also used to sterilize medical equipment.

Ethanol is a clear, colorless liquid and the principle ingredient in alcoholic beverages. Because it can readily dissolve in water and other organic compounds, ethanol also is an ingredient in a range of products, from personal care and beauty products to paints and varnishes to fuel.

Chlorine bleach is commonly used as either a whitening and disinfecting agent in laundry or an all-purpose disinfectant with broad applications.

How to Help Stop the Spread of COVID-19

Maintaining your general health through diet and exercise, practicing social distancing, using good hand hygiene, and staying home as much as possible are the best actions one can take to help minimize the spread of COVID-19:

Wear a Mask or Face Covering

The CDC recommends people who are 2 years old and older wear a cloth face covering in public settings and when around people who do not live in your household. Cloth face coverings can help prevent those who have COVID-19 from spreading it to others.

Wash Your Hands

After being in a public place or touching an item or surface that may be frequently touched by other people (door handles, tables, gas pumps, shopping carts, etc.), you should wash your hands. You should also wash your hands before touching your eyes, nose or mouth. When soap and water are not available, hand sanitizers that contain at least 60 percent alcohol can be used. Learn more about how to properly use disinfectants.

Practice Social or Physical Distancing

This CDC video offers guidance on when to practice social distancing

COVID-19 typically spreads among people who are in close contact for a period time. When someone with COVID-19 talks, coughs or sneezes, droplets from their mouth or nose can land on people nearby and cause them to contract the virus. The CDC recommends people practice social distancing by staying at least 6 feet away from people who are not from your household, as this can help minimize the spread of COVID-19.

Visit the following resources for more information about COVID-19: