In March 2020, claims were circulated on social media that being unable to hold one’s breath for ten seconds, without coughing, was a sign of fibrosis of the lungs and a way of diagnosing COVID-19. The claims were attributed to several sources including a Japanese doctor and Taiwanese experts.
We did not find any studies suggesting that being unable to hold one’s breath for ten seconds without coughing indicates that you have or do not have COVID-19. Some claims suggested that being unable to hold your breath for ten seconds without coughing is a sign of fibrosis of the lungs – a disease involving the build-up of scar tissue in the alveoli (i.e. air sacs). However, holding your breath does not reveal the presence of fibrosis and fibrosis appears to be uncommon in cases of COVID-19 (Han et al., 2020) – studies suggest that, when present, it is only present in some of those who have developed pneumonia (Diao et al., 2020).
The World Health Organisation has refuted this claim and has emphasised that the only way of revealing whether a person has COVID-19 is to follow the established testing procedures.
Things to Remember
Remember, personal experiences or anecdotes (stories) are, by themselves, an unreliable basis for assessing the effects of an intervention
Opinions alone are not a reliable basis for claims about the effects of treatments.
Drafted by: Dr Chris Noone, School of Psychology, NUI Galway
Reviewed by: Prof Declan Devane, Professor of Midwifery, Deputy Dean, College of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, Scientific Director, HRB-Trials Methodology Research Network, Director of Evidence Synthesis Ireland & Cochrane Ireland
Evidence Advisor: Prof Liam Glynn, Graduate Entry Medical, University of Limerick, Chair of the North Clare Primary Care Team and GP, Ballyvaughan, Co Clare
Evidence Advisor: Deirdre Mac Loughlin, PPI Ignite, NUI Galway
Evidence Advisor: Dr Claire O’Connell, Journalist, Contributor, The Irish Times.
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