COVID-19 myths busted: Holding breath for a minute is not a test for corona

Coronavirus Myths
If you can hold your breath for one minute, it just means that your lungs are absolutely normal, says Dr Arvind Kumar, founder trustee of Lung Care Foundation. Photo Reuters

New Delhi: As the coronavirus scare buffets the country, a zero-cost Covid-19 test has gone viral. According to the latest in the many misinformation and fake news regarding the novel coronavirus disease, if one can hold breath for a minute that person could be free of coronavirus infection. How true is it? Experts debunk it and call it highly misleading.

Speaking to IANS, Dr Arvind Kumar, founder trustee of Lung Care Foundation, said holding your breath has nothing to do with coronavirus.

"If you can hold your breath for one minute, it just means that your lungs are absolutely normal, but it has nothing to do with coronavirus," said Kumar.

"Suppose somebody is a smoker and his lungs are badly damaged already and he is able to hold his breath only for 20 seconds. Does that mean that he has coronavirus? The answer is no," he said.

On the other hand, 85 per cent of people have milder ailments in coronavirus cases. Those 85 per cent of people will have no effect on lungs, depending on their lung capacity.

"For example, a young sportsperson will definitely be able to hold breath for one minute. But that doesn't mean that he does not have corona. Only 15 per cent of people who have severe disease with lung involvement will have problems. So this cannot be used as a test at all for novel coronavirus. It is a wrong information," said Kumar.

"It (holding breath) is not a true diagnosis or treatment. The reason is, even if you are normal, you can have a virus replicating inside your body. That means that virus is there, but symptoms are not showing. If symptoms are not there, then you can hold your breath as long as any person can. So while the virus is still there and you do not feel any kind of limitation in daily activities, still you can be spreading it to other more vulnerable population," Dr Dhruv Choudhary, HoD, Pulmonary Critical Care Department, PGIMS, Rohtak, told IANS.

"So there is no clinical way to tell if after being exposed to a patient of COVID-19, you are not infected. At least not till 14 days of exposure," said Dr Choudhary.

"The origin of this rumour can be based on the fact that it is advised, if a COVID-19 patient needs to be intubated i.e. put on ventilator, the doctor is advised to hold his breath for one minute which is the usual time required for the procedure. This reduces the chances of inhalation of virus and hence the infection," he said.

"However, this theory is only logical but untested."

There are at least 157 private and government labs approved by the apex medical research body ICMR in the country to conduct tests of novel coronavirus. The person who has to be tested, must fit in the criteria for getting tested, prescribed by the ICMR.

Both the doctors as well as other experts says people who have been to coronavirus-affected countries must share their travel history and remain quarantined and follow each and every guideline put out by the government. People must remain indoors and follow personal hygiene and cough etiquette, and should follow social distancing, they say.