Doc's warning for DIY coronavirus remedies: 'Seriously, don't do it'

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Reports of serious injury and even death have begun to surface as people raid their cabinets in search of dangerous ingredients to concoct homemade anti-coronavirus “remedies.”

In Arizona, one man died and his wife landed in critical condition after the pair reportedly drank fish tank cleaner allegedly believing that they were ingesting the same anti-malarial medication currently being touted by officials as a possible COVID-19 treatment.


Chloroquine, also known as chloroquine phosphate, is an anti-malarial medicine that is available in the U.S. by prescription only and is sold in tablet form under the brand name Aralen, as well as a generic medicine. President Trump has touted the drug as a possible treatment for COVID-19, and New York has begun clinical trials in severely ill patients. But there are major differences between the anti-malaria drug and the liquid the couple in Arizona allegedly ingested.

“The production of medication is highly regulated -- both for purity and concentration,” Dr. Shannon Sovndal, a board-certified doctor in both emergency medicine and emergency medical services, told Fox News. “Over-the-counter products don’t follow the same guidelines. Dosing is critical, both for therapeutic effect and potentially dangerous side effects.”


As a result of the couple’s misstep, Banner Health in Arizona emphasized that people should not rush to find chloroquine in household products in an effort to avoid contracting coronavirus. Dr. Daniel Books, Banner’s poison and drug information medical director, said doing so could inundate already-overwhelmed hospital systems, as well as jeopardize personal health.

Sovndal had a similar message.

“Seriously, don’t do it,” he said. “We have limited data on the effectiveness of the prescribed medication. So, we don’t know how well it works. There is a risk in taking every medication, and want to first ‘do no harm.’ We need to be assured the benefit outweighs the risk. You open up an entirely new dimension of risk when you try to find special ingredients in over-the-counter products.”

Taking any substance without consulting a doctor could have serious complications for your health, Sovndal said.

“Allergic reactions may occur,” he explained. “They can be life-threatening. Additionally, adding medicine may change the effectiveness and metabolism of other medicines you may be prescribed.”

Rather than concocting potentially dangerous solutions in your kitchen, Sovndal advised adhering to public health officials’ guidance about social distancing and said getting plenty of sleep, eating well, avoiding stress and washing your hands often would help stave off infections more so than what you conjure up from your pantry.


“Do-it-yourself remedies rarely provide any real benefits but they can cause real harm,” he said. “Look no further than the couple that ingested fish tank cleaner for the ‘chloroquine’ it contained.”