12 Coronavirus Products Not to Waste Your Money On

They're unproven, overpriced, and sometimes even dangerous. Our advice? Steer clear and follow the CDC's guidelines to stay safe and healthy.

Preying on hope and fear

As the cases of coronavirus continue to grow, we’re all hoping to find a magical silver bullet (beyond social distancing and mask-wearing) to help us avoid or combat the illness. Unfortunately, that can leave us vulnerable to con artists and price gougers, who pass off unproven or quack products as potential cures or ways to prevent coronavirus. Some of these “solutions” can even be flat-out dangerous. The bottom line is that COVID-19 is a new contagion, and scientists still have a lot to learn about it. There is no magical way to fortify your immune system to stave off infection or cure yourself, but hopefully somewhat soon, there will be a vaccine. So, think twice before you invest in these products, and instead, follow the CDC’s guidelines to stay safe and healthy. And remember: Coronavirus is actually just one of a long list of diseases you can prevent just by washing your hands.

N95 masks

Let’s make one thing very clear: Masks work. If you are able, wear them. But N95 masks are a different scenario.

An N95 mask is an essential piece of the personal protective equipment (PPE) used by first responders and healthcare workers to keep them from contracting COVID-19 as they attempt to save lives. But stockpilers snatched up much of the stock early on, leading to shortages in hospitals where they were actually needed, and also jacked up prices. Other sellers started offering subpar counterfeit products on sites like Amazon and eBay. In case you were wondering, this is what the N95 stands for in N95 masks.

But do you actually need a mask? While, yes, experts originally said you didn’t, they are now asserting that universal mask-wearing could save up to 130,000 lives by the spring of 2021. COVID-19 can be spread through talking and simply breathing, not just coughing and sneezing; plus, virus particles can linger in the air.

Surgical masks are still needed by medical personnel—and that need will likely grow, as we head into the winter with cases and hospitalizations skyrocketing. If you have real N95 masks at home, consider donating them to your local hospital, and if you don’t, don’t bother buying the ones you find online. Avoid the worst face masks for coronavirus protection, too. Instead, check out these best cold-weather face masks and these stylish face masks you can buy for work.

Colloidal silver

There’s absolutely no evidence that drinking colloidal silver (tiny bits of silver suspended in liquid) improves anyone’s health in any measurable way—or kills coronavirus or any other known pathogen. But that didn’t stop televangelist Jim Bakker from touting the product Silver Solution as a potential coronavirus cure on his TV show. Recognizing the danger in this, several state governments filed lawsuits against Bakker to get him to stop promoting this quack medicine. So, if “news” of this potential treatment for coronavirus makes its way onto your social-media newsfeed, don’t fall for it. You also shouldn’t fall for these conspiracy theories about COVID-19.

Sodium chlorite

The FDA posted a warning about drinking sodium chlorite, which may be sold as Miracle Mineral Solution or Master Mineral Solution. According to the warning, sodium chlorite is an active ingredient in many disinfectants, and it is dangerous to drink. It can cause side effects like nausea and vomiting, which some of the products’ proponents claim is a sign that they’re working. In reality, it’s just a sign that it’s making them dangerously sick—without any benefits in preventing or curing coronavirus.

Elderberry syrup

Some natural-health practitioners have suggested using elderberry syrup to help protect against or treat COVID-19. While is there is some evidence that this berry may help fight colds and mildly boost immunity, due to its antioxidants and vitamins, there is absolutely no evidence that elderberry syrup can combat the coronavirus. In fact, the FDA has stopped at least one manufacturer from claiming that its elderberry products are helpful in dealing with this virus. Here are more coronavirus myths you should stop believing.

Superblue Toothpaste

Conservative radio host and known conspiracy theorist Alex Jones got a cease-and-desist letter from the New York attorney general regarding his claims that his Superblue Toothpaste “kills the whole SARS-corona family at point-blank range.” There is no toothpaste (or any other product out there) that can cure the coronavirus—yet. These household products will kill coronavirus on surfaces, though!

Chloroquine

Early in the pandemic, this potent drug, which is used to treat malaria, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis, along with several other diseases, showed some promise as a treatment for COVID-19. It was one of several potential treatments being explored, among infusions of plasma from people who have recovered from coronavirus and the antiviral drug remdesivir.

But while those treatments have since been authorized for use to treat people, in June the FDA revoked emergency use authorization [EUA] for chloroquine. They declared that the “legal criteria for issuing an EUA are no longer met.” And a September CDC report declared that “current data indicate that the potential benefits of [hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine] do not outweigh their risks.”

In addition, the excitement about the potential of chloroquine has caused problems. One man in Arizona died from ingesting a version of chloroquine that’s used to clean aquariums, and several people in Nigeria died after overdosing on the medication. Just as upsetting, people’s buying up of chloroquine as an attempted COVID treatment depleted the supply, depriving people with the conditions it does treat, like lupus, of doses. Here’s how people infected with coronavirus are dealing with it—and what they want you to know.

Tea

Social media has spread the idea that drinking tea can help cure coronavirus. The rumor attributed the idea to Wuhan doctor Li Wenliang, a whistleblower who eventually died from the illness. While tea might help you feel better and stay hydrated, it won’t protect you from COVID-19. One silver lining: At least it’s a lot tastier than one of the other quack cures that have spread around India: ingesting cow urine to fight against the illness.

Distilled white vinegar

Some social media posts have claimed that this common household product can kill the virus when you gargle it or use it to clean your home. Unfortunately, vinegar cannot help you in either instance. To actually kill coronavirus, use antiseptic wipes, bleach solution, or simple soap and water to clean surfaces. There’s nothing you can gargle to fight the virus, but warm salt water may help soothe a sore throat.

Tito’s Vodka

With hand sanitizer in short supply, many enterprising folks started sharing recipes for making their own at home. One recipe that spread like wildfire used Tito’s Vodka as the main ingredient. Unfortunately, hand sanitizer must contain at least 60 percent alcohol to be effective, and Tito’s Vodka straight up only has 40 percent. As a result, the company launched a campaign to keep people from mixing up a batch of ineffective sanitizer with their vodka—and encouraged them to mix up a cocktail instead. Here’s how to make your own (effective) hand sanitizer instead.

Red Cross home tests

Red Cross chapters across the country have had to warn against this coronavirus-related scam, where fraudsters come to your door and offer a free, at-home coronavirus test, courtesy of the Red Cross. Though the Red Cross is testing blood donations for antibodies, they are not offering any viral coronavirus tests, so if someone tries this scam, you should lock your door and call the police immediately. Watch out for these other online coronavirus scams, too.

Vitamin C

High doses of vitamin C have been used as an experimental treatment for some coronavirus patients, reports the NIH, so other people have been dosing themselves pretty heavily with the potent antioxidant. This led to an increased demand for orange juice in some places and a surge in frozen concentrate orange juice futures in the commodity markets. However, drinking orange juice or taking vitamin C supplements at home will likely not provide any real benefits, according to Peter McCaffery, professor of biochemistry at the University of Aberdeen in the United Kingdom. “Taking large doses of vitamin C tablets would be very unlikely to protect you from COVID-19—unless you were actually vitamin C deficient, which with a normal diet is quite rare,” he told Newsweek.

Zinc

Zinc has shown promise against far-more-common coronaviruses, which can cause the common cold. As a result, people stocked up on zinc supplements, and sales rose more than 200 percent, according to the New York Times. Unfortunately, though, there’s no evidence that zinc works for COVID-19, which is a very different type of virus from the cold viruses we’re used to. Plus, taking too much zinc can cause health problems like anemia and actually negatively impact your immune system, so don’t go overboard with it, pandemic or no pandemic. While you should skip these products, unfortunately, this winter we’re likely to see lots of shortages of legitimate, needed products.

For more on this ongoing situation, see our comprehensive Coronavirus Guide.

Sources:

  • BuzzFeed News: “Everyone Is Looking For Coronavirus Protective Masks. Some Are Looking To Get Rich.”
  • The New York Times: “The Price for Not Wearing Masks: Perhaps 130,000 Lives”
  • CDC: “How COVID-19 Spreads”
  • The New England Journal of Medicine: “Droplets and Aerosols in the Transmission of SARS-CoV-2”
  • NPR: “Missouri Sues Televangelist Jim Bakker For Selling Fake Coronavirus Cure”
  • FDA: “Danger: Don’t Drink Miracle Mineral Solution or Similar Products”
  • Medical News Today: “Health benefits of elderberry”
  • Yale School of Medicine: “From Dentists to Playdates—Tips on Social Distancing During Coronavirus Crisis”
  • FDA: “WARNING LETTER: Herbal Amy Inc”
  • The New York Times: “Alex Jones Is Told to Stop Selling Sham Anti-Coronavirus Toothpaste”
  • Mayo Clinic: “Convalescent plasma therapy”
  • National Institutes of Health: “Final report confirms remdesivir benefits for COVID-19”
  • FDA: “Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update: FDA Revokes Emergency Use Authorization for Chloroquine and Hydroxychloroquine”
  • CDC: “Hydroxychloroquine and Chloroquine Prescribing Patterns by Provider Specialty Following Initial Reports of Potential Benefit for COVID-19 Treatment — United States, January–June 2020”
  • The Washington Post: “As Trump touts an unproven coronavirus treatment, supplies evaporate for patients who need those drugs”
  • BBC: “Coronavirus: Herbal remedies in India and other claims fact-checked”
  • HealthAnalytics Asia: “Drinking tea is not a cure for Covid-19”
  • U.S. News: “Hindu Group Offers Cow Urine in a Bid to Ward off Coronavirus”
  • CDC: “Hand Hygiene Recommendations”
  • NPR: “Tito’s Warns Don’t Use Its Vodka To Make Hand Sanitizer”
  • Snopes: “No, Red Cross Is Not Offering Coronavirus Home Tests”
  • National Institutes of Health: “Vitamin C”
  • NPR: “Orange Juice Is A Hot Commodity During The Coronavirus”
  • Newsweek: “New York Hospitals Are Using Vitamin C to Treat Some Coronavirus Patients”
  • The New York Times: “Supplements for Coronavirus Probably Won’t Help, and May Harm”