A pandemic is also time ripe for the spread of misinformation. The slew of misinformation can range from the speculations of its origin, its effects, and most importantly its cure. With COVID-19, we saw a range of home remedies claiming that they could cure COVID-19 but they were not backed by any concrete scientific evidence.
Digiteye received one such claim on its WhatsApp fact-checking number. The forwarded WhatsApp message claims “that COVID-19 can be killed by steam from the nose-mouth, eliminating the corona.” The message then lays down the process for the “Steam Week”.
The message urges the people to inhale steam for five minutes twice a day “for a week from 27th September to 03rd October”. It also claims that this process has no side effects. It states how “if all the people started a steam drive campaign for a week, the Karona could be ended.”
In a study published in The Lancet by Brewster et. al., dated May 2020, the findings mention that “studies have shown that there is no additional symptomatic relief from the use of steam inhalation therapy to treat the common cold. However, in a survey of general practitioners in 2016 showed that 80% of general practitioners have recommended steam inhalation as a home remedy to their patients.”
In a blogpost by Apollo Doctors, it was mentioned, “while it may help ease symptoms like congestion, steam inhalation also carries the risks of burns.”
A Philippines-based study undertaken by microbiologists and other doctors states, “insufficient evidence to support the use of steam inhalation for the treatment and prevention of COVID-19.” The same study quotes how excessive use of steam can cause more harm “based on report of scald burns”.
As a means for self-care during COVID-19, the Ministry of AYUSH advises “Steam inhalation with fresh Pudina (Mint) leaves or Ajwain (Caraway seeds) can be practiced once in a day” for those having dry cough issues.
We talked to Dr Prashant Kumar based in Pune who said, “Steam can only provide a temporary relief from the congestion. Steam has no proven benefit in curing common cold either. It can help only with the nasal blockage.”
WHO also has debunked similar home remedies which claim to prevent COVID-19.
The idea of steam being a cure for COVID-19 arose because the symptoms initially look like common cold or flu. This was furthered by various groups and channels on social media. Claims of steam killing coronavirus are not new.
The rumour is so widespread that certain cities have opened “steam bars” which claim to treat or prevent the virus. We had debunked a similar claim which said hot water and steam inhalation can help contain coronavirus. Steam cannot be a permanent cure. It is an additional step in easing the patient from the breathing difficulties the virus brings along.
Our rating — Mostly False.