Old claim about coconut oil preventing dengue resurfaces

By: Rajeswari Parasa
September 19 2023

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Old claim about coconut oil preventing dengue resurfaces

Claims circulating on WhatsApp (Source: Screenshot/WhatsApp status)


The Verdict False

A message misattributed to a doctor falsely claims coconut oil can prevent dengue. However, there is no scientific evidence to support this claim.

Claim ID d438545d

What is the claim?

India has seen a surge in dengue infections amid heavy rainfall this season. Following this, an old claim about coconut oil being used as a possible preventive measure has resurfaced on social media. 

A picture of what appears to be a handwritten note is circulating on WhatsApp, which states, “This message is to inform you all that dengue virus is going on. So please use coconut oil below your knees till your footsteps. It is an antibiotic. And a Dengue mosquito can not fly higher than knees. So please keep this in mind and start using it. Spread this message as much as you can. Your one message can save many life’s (sic).” The note is signed by Dr. B Sukumar, Sri Saisudha Hospital, Tirupati, Andhra Pradesh. Similar versions of this claim have previously been shared online. An archived version of such a post can be found here.

However, there is no scientific truth to this claim.

What is the truth?

Logically Facts contacted Dr. B Sukumar, whose name appears at the bottom of the note in the viral image. Dr. Sukumar, an orthopedic surgeon at Sri Saisudha Hospital in Tirupati, told Logically Facts that he is not responsible for the note. 

“This note has been circulating under my name for the past eight to nine years. I have not written it. We tend to believe information if there is a reputable source attached to it so some miscreants might have attached my name to it,” he said adding that he had flagged this false note to the Press Information Bureau in New Delhi. 

“Whenever dengue cases rise, this message keeps getting shared. But this is false news, I request people not to fall for it,” he added. 

Dr. Sukumar further told us that there is no evidence that coconut oil prevents dengue. He debunked the information being shared in the note, saying that dengue mosquitoes can fly above knee length as well. 
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), dengue is caused by the female mosquito called Aedes aegypti, which has been infected with the dengue virus.  

Dr. Maulik Patel, a General Physician at Divine Life Hospital in Kutch, Gujarat, told Logically Facts, “There is no scientific evidence that coconut oil can prevent or cure dengue.” 

The claim that coconut oil is an antibiotic is also false. While there are some studies (see here and here) that primarily talk about the antibacterial and anti-microbial properties of coconut oil, it will be ineffective in curing dengue as the disease is caused by a virus.

Dr. Patel said dengue cannot be cured by antibiotics. “Dengue is a viral infection caused by female mosquitoes, whereas antibiotics are primarily used to treat bacterial infections.” Antibiotics, however, can be prescribed for alleviating the symptoms of dengue, like body pain and vomiting.

The viral post also claims that the mosquitoes responsible for dengue cannot fly above knee height. The WHO states that "mosquito can fly up to 400 meters."

This claim has also been debunked several times over the past decade. 

How can dengue be prevented?

Here are some of the precautionary measures that one can take to protect themselves from Dengue, as suggested by doctors and the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in India.

1. Avoid infection by preventing mosquito bites.
2. Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
3. Take steps to control mosquitoes inside the home by using window and door screening/nets.
4. Use household insecticides aerosols, mosquito coils, or other insecticide vaporizers.
4. Once a week, empty and scrub, turn over, cover, or throw out items that hold water, such as tires, buckets, planters, toys, pools, birdbaths, flowerpots, or trash containers. Check inside and outside your home. Mosquitoes lay eggs near water.

The verdict

Applying coconut oil below the knees cannot prevent dengue, and there is not enough scientific evidence proving the same. According to the WHO, dengue-causing mosquitoes can fly up to 400 meters. Therefore we have rated this claim as false.

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