As India is witnessing a surge in cases, preventions and cures for Covid-19 are getting wide popularity on social media. We at First Check have received a WhatsApp message from multiple sources within a span of 4-5 days promoting and convincing people to start a steam inhalation initiative. It also urges people to forward the message twice or thrice daily.
By Daram Tej Kumar
A viral message circulating in India’s WhatsApp groups claims that "according to doctors, Covid-19 can be killed by inhaling steam from the nose and mouth, eliminating the Coronavirus. If all the people started a steam drive campaign for a week, the pandemic will soon end."
There are other messages which are being forwarded multiple times including this one.
The text of the forward asks people to start a 'steam week'. It says “start the process for a week from morning and evening, for just 5 minutes each time, to inhale the steam. If we all adopt this practice for a week, the deadly Covid-19 will be erased. This practice has no side effects & doesn't cost anything either. So please send this message to all your loved ones, relatives, friends and neighbours, so that we all can kill this Coronavirus together and live and walk freely in this beautiful world."
Steam inhalation is still not proven to prevent Covid-19. This advice, which is inaccurate and potentially dangerous, was first debunked by First Check in 2020.
Few messages mention name of a doctor. We tried to identify the doctor mentioned in this post, on research, we came to know that there is a sexologist Dr N.N.KANNAPPAN in Madurai. On a phone call, he said that claims made in this post are not from him.
Many people believe that steam inhalation is effective and has been used as a home remedy for colds and upper respiratory tract infections. But steam is not recommended as a treatment for the coronavirus by either the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or the World Health Organization (WHO).
A research study published in the journal Life Sciences highlighted that steam inhalation works fine in reducing viral shedding from Coronavirus infected patients. However, the study has minimal participants and need furthermore trials on it.
Steam inhalation can cause burn injuries. According to American Burn Association guidelines, “three seconds of exposure to 60°C water can cause a burn severe enough to require surgery."
A study by The Lancet published in Microbe looked at how temperature affected high amounts of SARS-CoV-2 in laboratory media. The researchers found that the virus was killed after 5 minutes at 70°C (158°F). So, we need at least 70°C - 75°C hot water to inhale 70°C steam, which is dangerous to the human body.
Can steam inhalation cure or prevent Covid-19? The simple answer is No. The only way to end this pandemic is through herd immunity, which can be achieved through mass vaccinations. According to Johns Hopkins University, the world needs at least 70% of the vaccination to attain herd immunity.