Posts claiming steam inhalation will ‘kill’ the novel coronavirus has gone viral on social media.
However, there is no study to back the claim that steam inhalation can be used as a cure for the coronavirus infection. The Philippines office of the World Health Organisation (WHO) also warned against the use of steam as a cure for COVID-19 adding that the practice might lead to burn injuries.
One of the posts viral with this claim reads:
“*Important Message for all*
The hot water you drink is good for your throat. But this coronavirus is hidden behind the paranasal sinus of your nose for 3 to 4 days. The hot water we drink does not reach there. After 4 to 5 days this virus that was hidden behind the paranasal sinus reaches your lungs. Then you have trouble breathing.
That's why it is very important to take steam, which reaches the back of your paranasal sinus. You have to kill this virus in the nose with steam....”
The same claim has also been shared on Twitter and WhatsApp.
Another post talking about a “world steam week” was also viral in August and September that mentioned the same claim about steam.
WHAT WE FOUND OUT
We looked for studies that talked about steam inhalation for COVID-19 and found no paper backing the practice.
The Quint reached out to Dr Vikas Maurya, the director and head of the Department of Pulmonology at Fortis Hospital, Delhi. Dr Maurya said, “Taking steam can help in cleaning the respiratory passage during any type of viral infection in the nose, sinus and throat”.
“Taking steam relieves stiffness, relaxes the throat. It can help patients to get relief from some symptoms, but it cannot kill the virus,” Dr Maurya added.
We found a tweet posted by the WHO’s Philippines office that said that steam inhalation is not a cure for COVID-19.
Contrary to the claim made in the post, WHO has noted that exposing oneself to temperatures above 25 degrees Celsius does not cure or prevent COVID-19.
Indian Scientists' Response to COVID-19 (ISRC), a voluntary organisation also debunked the myth and said, “There's no evidence to show nasal rinses or steam inhalation can prevent COVID-19 infection. Although they can potentially provide relief from some of the symptoms, these methods do not kill viruses and hence should not be used as a cure.”
While steam inhalation in ineffective against COVID-19, it carries the additional risk of getting burn injuries.
The American Burn Association has said that “3 seconds of exposure to 140°F/60°C water can cause a burn serious enough to require surgery.” Burn injuries increase one’s chances of getting infections.
The COVID-19 pandemic is still an evolving situation and scientists are looking for ways to prevent the spread of the virus. However, until now, steam inhalation has not been found to be one of the ways that can be used to prevent or cure COVID-19.