HEALTH experts and medical societies have discouraged the public to turn to steam inhalation as a treatment for Covid-19 and other conditions as it may only aggravate the condition of a patient.
“Steam inhalation loosens secretions, that’s why a Covid patient shouldn’t do it. It poses a great threat to everyone around the patient especially if he starts coughing in the middle of treatment,” pulmonologist and biochemist Dr. Earl Louis A. Sempio told reporters during Unilab Inc.’s (Unilab) “Alagang Unilab: HealthierPH Series” webinar dubbed “To steam or not to steam: A discussion on Steam Inhalation as a Health Remedy.”
As the vaccine for Covid-19 has yet to be fully developed and proven effective, there have been reports on the use of tuob or suob, a local term for steam inhalation, as an alternative cure for the unprecedented health malady.
This traditional medical practice is done by inhaling water vapor to relieve a clogged nose. To do so, the head is lowered between eight to 12 inches away from hot water poured in a pot, basin or any container. The vapor is then breathed in slowly and deeply via the nose for at least two to five minutes.
“Steam inhalation is widely practiced, especially in homes, because of the relief that it gives a person who may be suffering from the common cold, nasal allergies, or sinus infections. These conditions bring nasal congestion that is very uncomfortable and makes it difficult for someone to breathe,” he said.
Even if this treatment modality alleviates the symptoms of nasal congestion, Dr. Sempio pointed out that it is not a cure as the steam does not kill the virus that caused it.
Unfortunately, he noted that people often associate relief with cure when they feel better, hence, they think they no longer need a doctor for remedy.
This false sense of security on their condition, he cautioned, leads to a mistake that can potentially hurt them in the long run.
DIFFERENT medical groups in the country have already made public their stance against steam inhalation for Covid-19 patients.
“Scientific studies suggest that steam inhalation is indeed effective against symptoms of colds and that it increases nasal patency… However, tuob/suob cannot be recommended as a standard care treatment for Covid-19 until it is proven by controlled clinical studies,” the Philippine Institute of Traditional and Alternative Health Care (PITAHC) said it a statement.
The Philippine College of Physicians, Philippine Society of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, and the Philippine College of Chest Physicians have also issued a joint statement saying, “Steam inhalation does not kill the virus and may cause potential harm. We cannot in good conscience endorse its preventive or curative measure.”
Apart from Covid-19, Dr. Sempio also advised that steam inhalation should not be used on those suffering from an infectious condition like Tuberculosis for it could generate infectious droplets.
He suggested, though, that it is better to ask for a health professional’s opinion when addressing medical concerns, especially cough and cold.
Tips to prevent infection
CLICHE it may sound, but “prevention is always better than cure,” according to the pulmonologist and biochemist.
Being hygienic is the primary way to not get the infection, Dr. Sempio cited. He emphasized that a viral infection usually comes from secretions or airborne particles.
“If you are already sick, drink plenty of fluids, that’s No. 1. Second, you need to have rest, you have to have adequate sleep, adequate nutrition, and remove any form of abuse to the body,” he said.
Since many Filipinos suffer from vitamin deficiency, he warned that this condition makes them susceptible to infection. This is why correcting malnutrition can be of big help in improving one’s immune system, he stressed.