Loading articles...

Experts say 'immune-boosting' claims won’t help ward off coronavirus

Last Updated Mar 29, 2020 at 6:53 am EDT

FILE - In this Jan. 14, 2005 file photo, a man sneezes holding a tissue (AP Photo/Roberto Pfeil, File)

Humming, biofield tuning sessions and taking lots of Vitamin C.

These are just some of the recommendations that are circulating online – some from medical professionals, for how one can boost the immune system and possibly prevent getting COVID-19.

But this information about how the immune system works and the need to “boost it” could be contributing to spreading more fear than fact, say experts.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Dr. Joseph A. Arena, DC, BS (@dr.josepharena) on

DOES YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM NEED A  BOOST?

Dr. Charu Kaushic is a professor of pathology and molecular medicine at McMaster University, and she is also the scientific director for the Institute of Infection and Immunity, a research arm for the federal government.  She says the immune system is like “every other” system in the body.

“When there are harmful viruses and bacteria, the body responds by mounting an immune response, and that immune response you know is a whole variety of things,” she explains. “If you think of the immune system as an army, and then there’s different parts of the army, there’s the navy, there’s the air force, you know there’s the infantry, so there’s different parts of the immune system that get activated when they look at these harmful viruses and bacteria. The coronavirus is no different than other viruses, that’s why some people do have very mild symptoms and other people fall very sick.”

She goes onto say that if you’re in general good health, the immune system is probably also in a good state.

“There’s nothing that’s specifically known that, if you do this, then you’re not going to be susceptible to coronavirus,” she said. “It’s kind of like saying if you brush your teeth you’re likely to have better immunity to coronavirus,” she says. “Well, of course, because if your oral health is good, then your general body condition is better. You know, and you’re going have higher resistance, not just to a coronavirus but to many other bad pathogens.”

The problem she says is that people are taking elements of science and “universal truths” about living a healthy lifestyle and putting them into the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“There are lots of small elements…taking vitamins, sunshine, good food, exercising…those are all good things at any given time. These are good healthy habits that really keep you, you know, healthy, so healthy people are less likely to fall sick. If you’re not doing all those things, then you’re compromising your body regardless of coronavirus.”

Despite the claims, she says there is no need to boost the immune system if we’re living a healthy lifestyle. “Your immune system is meant to take care of these kind of infections that we come across.  The problem with this one is that we’ve never seen it before.”

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Dr. Caroline Leaf (@drcarolineleaf) on

ONLINE HEALTH NEWS INFORMATION

Adding more uncertainty to already misleading and perhaps inaccurate information is the fact that more of us are practicing social distancing and turning to online resources through our social communities for connection and to stay up-to-date with information.

Dr. Anatoliy Gruzd, associate professor of Information Technology Management at the Ted Rogers School of Management in Toronto says social platforms like YouTube, Facebook and Instagram are trying to be proactive and combat health news misinformation about the coronavirus, “it’s unclear whether their current approaches are effective.”

He says if content is deemed to be false, users can flag it and most platforms have a mechanism in place that would highlight the misinformation or provide links to credible sources or even create their own content with the factual information.

As an example, he says YouTube had to resort to these measures last year when it was criticized for allowing the anti-vaccination movement to spread false information on its platform. His rule of thumb to users: understand the platforms you’re using, and wait before you hit the retweet button – especially when it’s to your friends.

“Maybe it’s actually useful information and important and tells you how you can protect yourself from this new virus.  And so you think it’s important as well…you’ll forward it to your friends.  And so that’s how misinformation spreads virally.”

Gruzd says a good way to think about interacting with online recommendations when it comes to COVID-19 is to practice “digital hygiene” in the way we have to be vigilant about our personal hygiene.

If you’re not sure about a claim, don’t share it. Go to your reliable news sources first, and don’t be the first one to tweet something that may be false information that’s contributing to creating more fear rather than fact.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by goop (@goop) on