There are many myths about COVID-19
Many of my patients have asked me if any alternative therapies are effective against COVID-19. Given the lack of effective medications and therapies in traditional medicine, this is a serious question.
The answer is there are some vitamins that may offer some level of protection but, beyond that, other recommendations about supplements and herbs have no basis for any claims.
The Food and Drug Administration has the authority to shut down companies that falsely claim their supplements, vitamins and herbs are effective in preventing COVID-19. These products are being hyped to a population in which fear is strongest. Now, maybe some of these products cause no real harm -- but there is no evidence of effectiveness, either.
Below are some therapies I have seen hyped as effective against COVID-19.
Silver: A metal that is not just for werewolves. It is used in some industrial systems as an antibacterial and antiviral agent. However, there is no clinical evidence to suggest a medical benefit. Indeed, long-term use is associated with vasculitis, lymphoma, neuropathy and optic neuritis.
Bleach: Yes, bleach. Drinking bleach does not kill COVID-19. It certainly can kill you.
Essential oils: I like the smell of many essential oils but there is no evidence they are effective either as a preventive or treatment for COVID-19.
Breathing in hot air from a hair dryer: Really hot air kills viruses and bacteria. However, breathing in hot air will not work.
Neti pot: Flushing your sinuses with a neti pot will not prevent or treat COVID-19. If the virus is in your sinuses, it's too late.
Special COVID-19 protocols: No one can make the claim of successfully treating COVID-19 using teas, bone broth or other products.
Herbs and supplements: There are claims of elderberry, astragalus, echinacea and other products being effective against COVID-19. There is no evidence these claims are true.
Traditional Chinese medicine: There are a few publications noting real but limited benefits in hospitalized patients; yet no evidence of prevention.
Are there any supplements of vitamins that can help? The answer is a cautious yes. Dr. Tom Frieden, former Centers for Disease Control chief, recently stated that vitamin D may offer some level of prevention. Blood levels or daily intake amounts have not been determined. I have been a big proponent of taking enough vitamin D to reach a blood level of 70-80 ng/mL. Finding out your level requires a simple blood test.
High dose intravenous vitamin C is being tested as an adjunct therapy for COVID-19 patients who are seriously ill. There are three studies going on in China as well as one here in the U.S. The claim of prevention is speculative. Overall, intravenous vitamin C is generally safe with few contraindications.
The best advice -- wash your hands with soap and water and stop touching your face. A vaccine will not be here for about 12 to 18 months. Social distancing and self-quarantining are our most effective weapons.
• Dr. Patrick Massey is president of ALT-MED Medical and Physical Therapy, 1544 Nerge Road, Elk Grove Village.