Backgroud: Social media and home made tutorials from unverified sources have a role in misleading people into steaming.
AS the numbers of Covid-19 increase dramatically across Zimbabwe and the whole country having been declared a hotspot, people are widely sharing several chain messages on social media linked to how steaming kills the new coronavirus.
The viral messages advise people to steam three times a day, adding various ingredients such as ginger, Zumbani, garlic, and so on until one sweats because the inhalation keeps the air channels open and lungs clean.
These claims advise people to use boiling water, then place face over the steam with their eyes and mouth open to inhale in order to kill the coronavirus.
But health experts say there is no scientific evidence that steaming can kill Covid -19 and warn such advise is misleading .
“People must follow the recommended guidelines on how Covid-19 is managed and what medicines are prescribed by the Ministry of Health and Child Care, otherwise there is no scientific evidence that steaming kills the coronavirus.,” said Dr Nyasha Masuka, a specialist community physician.
According to Stanford University’s initiative Digital Medic, which is part of the Stanford Center for Health Education, when one is infected with the new coronavirus, the virus is inside one’s cell and inhaling steam would not affect it.
“The virus can be killed on surfaces using very hot water at round 70 Degrees Celsius or hotter as well as chemicals but water and chemicals that are safe for surfaces are not safe for your body. “Bringing hot water into close contact with your face and airways can cause burns and serious damages so please do not try inhaling steam,” warned the university.
One local medical doctor said steaming is part of those remedies that have been referred to as dangerous because it only leads to dehydration.
“Some people have collapsed and died while steaming,” he said and warned people not to rely on unverified articles as they failed to meet principles of research.
In a scholarly article by Colin T Brewster, Jia Choong, Clare Thomas, David Wilson, and Naiem Moiemena, published online on May 15, 2020, titled “Steam inhalation and paediatric burns during the Covid-19 pandemic,” the authors acknowledge that steam inhalation is used as a home remedy for common colds and upper respiratory tract infections.
However, they said the evidence base of the practice is weak with unproven theories that the steam loosens mucus, opens nasal passage and reduces mucosal inflammation or that the heat inhibits replication of viruses.
“The common misconception is that steam inhalation is beneficial in preventing and treating respiratory tract symptoms. Social media and home made tutorials from unverified sources have a role in misleading parents into practicing this dangerous habit. Studies have shown that there is no additional symptomatic relief from the use of steam inhalation therapy to treat the common cold,” said the experts.
The authors also indicated that due to this process of steam inhalation, “two patients per year with scalds” were admitted from steaming.”
“Since lockdown measures were implemented last month (April 2020) our Burns centre at Birmingham Children’s Hospital in the United Kingdom received a 30 fold increase in the number of scalds directly resulting from steam inhalation. The mechanism is most frequently accidental spillage of boiling water from a bowl or from a kettle,” they noted.
Therefore in summary, while steaming may help with congestion, it carried the risk of burns or scalds and would not kill Covid-19.