FACT CHECK: Holding breath for 10 seconds or more without coughing NOT COVID-19 test

CLAIM: Holding breath for 10 seconds or more without coughing or feeling discomfort is a sure COVID-19 test VERDICT: FALSE  FULL STORY: A viral post on WhatsApp claimed that holding one’s breath for more than ten seconds without feeling discomfort or the need to cough is a sure way to know that one doesn’t have […]

CLAIM: Holding breath for 10 seconds or more without coughing or feeling discomfort is a sure COVID-19 test

VERDICT: FALSE

 FULL STORY: A viral post on WhatsApp claimed that holding one’s breath for more than ten seconds without feeling discomfort or the need to cough is a sure way to know that one doesn’t have COVID-19.

The post also added that the process also offers a simple and cheap alternative to the standardized and laboratory tests conducted by the government under the supervision of the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control.

This is coming shortly after the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 stated that laboratory testing by state governments have reduced.

“Take a deep breath and hold your breath for more than 10 seconds. If you complete it successfully without coughing, without discomfort stiffness or tightness, etc., it proves there is no fibrosis in the lungs, basically indicates no infection. In a critical time, please self-check every morning in an environment with clean air,” the post reads.

Another variation of the claim had a gif video showing a RED dot moving from point A to point B. The distance covered by the RED dot while moving from point A to point B lasted about 29 seconds.

“If you can hold your breath till the RED dot moved from A to B, you’re a disease resistant,” the accompanying post reads. “This is a simple COVID-19 test. Thanks,” it added.

VERIFICATION: Google detected the texts inside the gif to be Hindi – often described as a standardised and Sanskritised register of the Hindustani language in India.

When translated by Google, the text reads: “Check your lungs and oxygen level. If you hold breath from A to B according to the point, you can be free from corona. Breathe A B, Breathe, Breathe, Check the Corona Virus for Rs. 2200 / – (at the rate fixed by the Government of Rajasthan) 00:01 ANANTA HOSPITAL 00:45 02953288000.”

The test was also said to have been developed by the Ananta Hospital in the northwest of India as it carries information on Ananta Hospital including a phone number and the price of a COVID-19 test.

Award-winning journalist and medical doctor, Dr. Seema Yasmin who forms part of Meedan’s COVID-19 expert database, also debunked this claim, saying though shortness of breath or presence of a cough are symptoms of COVID-19, holding one’s breath without feeling discomfort does not accurately test if one is COVID-19 positive.

She said: “Holding your breath for 10 seconds or more without coughing or feeling discomfort does not mean you are negative for COVID-19. Symptoms of the virus are different in every person.

“Some people might not have any symptoms at all (a phenomenon known as being ‘asymptomatic’). Some people may be able to hold their breath for longer than 10 seconds even if they are actively infected with COVID-19.

“Other than helping to determine whether you have shortness of breath or a cough – both are symptoms of the virus – holding your breath for 10 seconds is not a substitute for an actual COVID-19 test, which is the only accurate way of determining whether or not you have an active infection.”

A key phrase search revealed that the video has been checked by AFP. Dr Amba Lal Salve, a medical superintendent at Ananta Hospital, told AFP that the institution was not behind the message on the video. “The video does not belong to the hospital and we have no idea who made it,” Salve said.

The World Health Organization (WHO), in an email also told AFP that the technique “does not tell you if you have COVID-19,” adding that: “This appears to be a simple app that measures time and not airflow. People with lung disease (from smoking, pollution, asthma, COPD or pulmonary infection, including but of course not limited to COVID-19) would have a harder time doing this.  It seems harmless, but not very informative, a crude measure of lung function.”

CONCLUSION: As experts have warned against the use of non-laboratory or scientific methods in determining one’s COVID-19, the public is strongly advised to approach designated COVID-19 testing centres to determine their COVID-19 status.

• This report, under the Information Saves Lives project, was done with support from Internews. Have you come across any suspicious COVID-19 claim or working COVID-19-focused solution, submit for verification using this submission form.

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