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Fact check: Inhaling steam is not proven to prevent COVID-19

The false claim that inhaling steam prevents a person from catching COVID-19 has resurfaced on social media, prompting health experts to warn that the bogus treatment carries risks.

Reuters Fact Check. REUTERS

One video, shared almost 1000 times on Facebook, shows a man walking out of what appears to be a homemade sauna (here).

“Build your sauna/steam challenge !”, the video is captioned. “Put gumtree and guava leaves in the boiling pots...mhlonyane tea and all ..smoke/steam the virus : Your health is in your hands!”

This is echoed in a separate post, which claims “Covid -19 can be killed by inhaling steam from the nose and mouth” and that “if all the people started a steam drive campaign for a week, The pandemic will end” (here).

This advice, which is inaccurate and potentially dangerous, was first debunked by Reuters back in March, 2020 (here).

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 representative from the CDC previously told Reuters that he was not aware of any scientific studies that show steam therapy helps with the coronavirus (here). 

Inhaling steam has been used as a home remedy for colds and upper respiratory tract infections.

But scientific studies have found that it has few proven benefits, and can cause serious adverse side effects like burn injuries (here) (here).

“The usual technique of covering the head with a towel over a pan filled with hot water is dangerous due to the steam, the hot liquid, or even potential contact with the container”, a study from the Spanish Pediatrics Association warned.

Birmingham Children’s Hospital has reissued a warning about the risks associated with steam inhalation.

“Our specialist Burns team is once again warning families to be aware of the scalds risk associated with inhaling steam following an unhelpful myth circulating that inhaling steam can prevent COVID-19", the hospital said on Facebook (here).

“Sadly, our centre has seen increase of young people needing care after suffering such scalds from boiling water linked to inhaling steam. Such injuries have the potential to be life-changing. Please do not take the risk.”

VERDICT

False. The inhalation of steam is not proven to prevent COVID-19 and carries the risk of serious burns.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our fact checking work here .

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