Fact Check: Is holding my breath for 10 seconds to 1 minute a self-test for COVID-19?

Quick Take

Multiple posts have come up on social media claims that there is a ‘self test’ to see whether you got COVID-19. Some posts claim that you do not have COVID-19 if you can hold your breath for 10 seconds, while some others claim that it is 1 minute . We investigated and found all these claims about ‘holding breath to check COVID’ to be false.

The Claim

Multiple claims are doing rounds on social media suggesting people to hold their breath to understand if they have COVID-19. One such post even goes to the extent of suggesting that people infected with the novel Coronavirus will have 50% pulmonary fibrosis. An archived version of one such post is here and the snapshot can be seen below.

Noted Yoga guru Ramdev has apparently also made a similar claim asking people to hold breath for 1 minute in order to check if they are patients of COVID-19.

Fact Check

Is there a self test for COVID-19?

There are a number of online symptom checker launched by various organizations across the world. Even the Indian Govt.’s official App Aarogya Setu has a self-assessment for COVID-19 based on visible symptoms like fever, sore throat, tiredness, dry cough etc. If symptoms suggests positive, patients are advised for further blood investigation to be sure about whether they have COVID-19 or not. The USFDA has recently approved a blood test kit for self testing of COVID-19 at home. These tests are to be done in consultation with the doctors and as per instructions.
But ‘holding the breath’ is not a symptom checker or a valid test for the disease.

Will all COVID-19 patients have breathing difficulties?

All COVID-19 patients will NOT have same symptoms. Also, the severity of a particular symptom vary from person to person.

As per Sanjeev Jain, Consultant – Pulmonologist, Fortis Hospital, Delhi, “We are seeing only a handful patients who actually complain of breathing problems. It is lesser than half of the COVID patients we treat.”

So, saying ‘all patients will have breathing problems’ or ‘if you have COVID-19 you will not be able to hold your breath’ is not a right thing.

What is fibrosis of lungs? Will all Coronavirus patients end up having 50 percent pulmonary fibrosis?

Pulmonary fibrosis (PF) is a form of interstitial lung disease that causes scarring in the lungs. It is a progressive disease and increases with age or time. In this disease the lung tissues become hard and cannot expand or contract easily making it difficult for the patient to breathe.
Dr. Jain says, “Patients who have severe respiratory complications may progress to severe ARDS which may lead to fibrosis of lung. But that does not mean every COVID patient will end up having fibrosis of lung. There is no studies done to measure that even in case of pulmonary fibrosis it will proceed to 50%. The data will vary from hospital to hospital, as per their expertise in treating such patients.”

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