FIT WebQoof: Can Coconut Oil Prevent Dengue?
Coconut oil is hailed as a superfood but can it cure dengue?
The coconut is having its moment in the sun.
From being recongised as an electrolyte-rich drink and a superfood, to its oil being hailed as a natural moisturiser for your skin and hair – the fruit in its entirety is being celebrated.
A viral message on the link between coconut oil and dengue is doing the rounds on social media. The message is apparently signed off by a D B. Sukumar from Shri Saisuda Hospital in Tripati, and it claims that coconut oil can be used as an antibiotic to the dengue virus.
The image and message has been shared many times across online platforms, since 2012. With the change in seasons, the message has sprung up again.
True or False?
Lets debunk this rumour by talking to the experts.
FIT spoke to Dr Suranjit Chatterjee, a senior consultant of internal medicine at Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals who has treated many dengue patients. He told us he had never heard of such a message, adding,
Dengue is a viral disease, so even if the oil was to act as an antibiotic, theoretically this would make no difference to dengue as you cannot cure a viral problem with an antibiotic.
Dr Tarun Sahni, another senior consultant of internal medicine at Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals concurred, saying that “There is no evidence that this method works to prevent dengue.”
The final nail in the coffin for this rumour is word from the apparent sender of the message, the real Dr Sukumar from Sri Saisudha Hospital, who denies having ever written or saying such a “fake” statement.
Dr Sukumar told fact-checking site BOOM that, “I have not written this and I am trying to figure out how my name has been used. This is a typed message in a font which resembles a handwriting.”
He further added that the message was not scientifically sound and he did not endorse it as “coconut oil is not an antibiotic.”
Ayurveda and Home Remedies Are Not Always Reliable
“Coconut and its products have become a fad,” says Dr Sahni, adding that “home remedies are helpful but there is no scientific evidence that coconut oil can work as an antibiotic.”
Besides, if it were an antibiotic this would be a well-known and established fact and there would be no need for antibiotic drugs.Dr Sahni
Dr Chatterjee added that Ayurveda may or may not work, which means that one can use these remedies as a supplement but must be careful of entirely replacing doctor-advised medicines.
Could coconut oil then be used as a mosquito repellent at least?
Dr Sahni disagrees saying that, “Perhaps it can be used to prevent mosquito bites and act as a barrier between the skin and mosquito better than typical moisturisers as is it more greasy with its oily layer. But it is advisable to use medicinally tested, reliable repellents as well.”
There are now a whole host of repellents from patches to creams and sprays to choose from.
How Low Can They Go?
The message also claims that the oil needs to only be applied knee-down as dengue mosquitoes cannot fly above that.
Now the WHO reports that the aedes aegypti mosquito that carries the virus has a flying range of 400 meters but says nothing about the height at which it can fly.
Dr Chatterjee agrees that the dengue mosquito is indeed a low flying mosquito.
It is true that the dengue mosquito is low-flying and is attracted to low, dark places. However, it is important to note that the wind factor can affect the height at which the mosquito flies and so they can bite anywhere at times.Dr Sahni
Prevention Not Cure of Dengue Should Be the Focus Say Doctors
“Individuals should be aware of methods to control the spread of mosquitos” and do it as their civic responsibility said Dr Sahni.
On both an individual and society level, civic things like spraying their surroundings, ensuring that no excess water is collected (as the mosquito breeds in still water) and keeping areas clean are good disciplinary things to do.Dr Sahni.
He added that one should use mosquito repellents on any exposed skin and shut the doors and windows during twilight especially.
On a government level, policies need to be implemented to ensure cleanliness of water bodies. “They should focus on prevention,” he added.
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