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FactCheck: No, drinking water every 15 minutes will not protect you from getting the coronavirus

That information you’ve heard about drinking water every 15 minutes to protect yourself from Covid-19.

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AS NEWS ABOUT the coronavirus Covid-19 has continued to dominate public discussion, misinformation has been flooding social media. 

As the virus continues to spread, so too do rumours about the outbreak – from which communities have become affected by it to how the outbreak is being managed by health authorities.

More recently, people have been seeing information circulating about how to protect themselves from coronavirus. 

One image that has circulated on social media in recent days is a message that appears to offer “useful info” from the Stanford Hospital Board and Japanese doctors treating Covid-19. 

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While medical professionals are offering plenty of advice on trying to reduce the spread of Covid-19, such as regular hand-washing, this particular advice is FALSE.

Let’s take a look at the misinformation in more detail. 

The advice

The claim is being circulated on Whatsapp and on Facebook. On Whatsapp, it has been described as being “from a friend whos [sic] brother is at the Stanford hospital board”. 

The advice is said to be from Japanese doctors treating the coronavirus Covid-19. 

It tells people that they should take a few sips of water every 15 minutes, because “even if the virus gets into your mouth, drinking water and other liquids will wash them down through your throat and into the stomach”. There, the advice states, stomach acid will kill the virus. 

It has been widely shared on Facebook. One post, shown below, was shared nearly 200,000 times from an Irish Facebook page. 

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Why it’s fake

Firstly, the message did not come from Stanford. A spokesperson for the Stanford School of Medicine in California confirmed to TheJournal.ie that the information did not originate with them. 

The advice is also not medically sound. Dr Kim Roberts, an expert in virology in Trinity College Dublin, told TheJournal.ie that the advice is not accurate. 

“You’re not going to wash the virus down into your stomach by drinking water,” she said. 

“Staying hydrated is a good idea because that helps keep respiratory mucus at the effective thickness so that any virus caught in the respiratory mucus is moved away by the normal mechanisms our bodies have to protect us from infection,” she said. 

But there is no evidence to support the idea that drinking water every 15 minutes will help protect you from coronavirus, according to Roberts. 

The claim has been widely debunked elsewhere too. The World Health Organisation tweeted last month that “while staying hydrated by drinking water is important for overall health, it does not prevent coronavirus infection”. 

The BBC Reality Check team also de-bunked the claim. Writing that a version of the same claim in Arabic has been shared over 250,000 times, the BBC quoted an Oxford University professor who said that there is “no biological mechanism” to support the claim. 

While coronavirus is a respiratory illness with symptoms such as fever, dry cough and shortness of breath, drinking water won’t be enough to prevent you from catching Covid-19. 

The best thing you can do is to regularly wash your hands and to reduce touching your face. 

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There is a lot of false news and scaremongering  being spread in Ireland at the moment about coronavirus. Here are some practical ways for you to assess whether the messages that you’re seeing – especially on WhatsApp – are true or not.

 STOP, THINK AND CHECK 

Look at where it’s coming from. Is it someone you know? Do they have a source for the information (e.g. the HSE website) or are they just saying that the information comes from someone they know? A lot of the false news being spread right now is from people claiming that messages from ‘a friend’ of theirs. Have a look yourself – do a quick Google search and see if the information is being reported elsewhere. 

Secondly, get the whole story, not just a headline. A lot of these messages have got vague information (“all the doctors at this hospital are panicking”) and don’t mention specific details. This is often – but not always – a sign that it may not be accurate. 

Finally, see how you feel after reading it. A lot of these false messages are designed to make people feel panicked. They’re deliberately manipulating your feelings to make you more likely to share it. If you feel panicked after reading something, check it out and see if it really is true.

With reporting from Aoife Barry

Have you gotten a message on WhatsApp or Facebook or Twitter about coronavirus that you’re not sure about and want us to check it out? Message or mail us and we’ll look into debunking it.
WhatsApp: 085 221 4696 Email: answers@thejournal.ie 

TheJournal.ie’s FactCheck is a signatory to the International Fact-Checking Network’s Code of Principles. You can read it here. For information on how FactCheck works, what the verdicts mean, and how you can take part, check out our Reader’s Guide here. You can read about the team of editors and reporters who work on the factchecks here

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