Viral Video and JK Rowling Share Bad Medical Advice

When we hear about medical advice, we like to investigate. We want to know if it’s safe and if it has any scientific basis. We want all of our customers (and our team) to stay safe. Last week, we wrote about the false claim that a pneumonia vaccine cannot protect you from COVID-19. Now, we’re looking at a viral video that makes claims about a breathing technique a doctor says can help people with COVID-19.

We think it’s essential to be armed with scientific data. The only people you should take advice from are medical professionals who know your background. When you are looking for general health guidelines, checking reputable sources on the internet can be a help. During this pandemic, listening to the CDC can protect you. But, when it comes to your personal routine and treatment, talk to your doctor.

A video that has been watched approximately 3.5 million times claims that a breathing technique can prevent people with COVID-19 developing pneumonia. If it were true, the CDC would be talking about it and spreading the information. The advice is to take five deep breaths, then force a cough, repeat that process and then lie on your stomach and breathe deeply for 10 minutes.

The Association of Chartered Physiotherapists in Respiratory Care (ACPRC) disagrees with this advice. The ACPRC said, “The cough associated with coronavirus is usually a dry, non-productive cough, so taking deep breaths and coughing is unlikely to help at all. If you have the symptoms of coronavirus and do have a persistent dry cough, there is no reason to make yourself cough after taking deep breaths. Deep breathing exercises for people with underlying lung conditions such as [Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease] are not advocated by respiratory physiotherapists as it can make their underlying condition worse.” They went on to warn that some people may have problems getting out of the position. Additionally, they said that — while the video shows breathing through the mouth — breathing through the nose is better. It warms and moistens air before it reaches your lungs, making you less likely to cough.

The video got more publicity when JK Rowling said that it helped her when she suspected that she had COVID-19. She tweeted a message that read, “Please watch this doc from Queens Hospital explain how to relieve respiratory symptoms. For last 2 weeks I’ve had all symptoms of C19 (tho haven’t been tested) & did this on doc husband’s advice. I’m fully recovered & technique helped a lot.”

It’s important to note that Ms. Rowling was not tested. She may have had COVID-19, but we don’t know. Deep breathing may have helped, but it may have just coincided with her recovery. Controlled coughing is used for people with cystic fibrosis and other lung diseases to help remove excess mucus to let them breathe more easily. (https://theconversation.com/does-jk-rowlings-breathing-technique-cure-the-coronavirus-no-it-could-help-spread-it-135935)

However, it has not been recommended for COVID-19. Additionally, coughing can spread the virus so forcefully coughing — purposefully or not — can endanger people around you. There are no clinical trials to support controlled coughing as a way to alleviate the symptoms of COVID-19. While the technique may not harm you — if you don’t have problems lying on your stomach — it could harm those around you.

The bottom line here, with what we currently know about COVID-19, is that this is a move to avoid. Many of us here in the office read the Harry Potter books to our kids or read them over selves growing up. We’re very pleased Ms. Rowling has recovered from her illness. However, we avoid taking health tips from celebrities and will continue to follow what the CDC and other health officials are advising.
April 10, 2020
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