Health experts have cautioned against the use of steam inhalation, known as tuob or suob in local parlance, as a cure for COVID-19.
“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,” said pulmonologist and biochemist Dr. Earl Louis Sempio during the online symposium “To steam or not to steam: A discussion on Steam Inhalation as a Health Remedy” hosted by Unilab Inc.
The discussion was part of the “Alagang Unilab: HealthierPH Series” of the country's leading pharmaceutical and healthcare company.
“Steam can make you feel better and so can a warm bowl of chicken soup when you’re under the weather. When you’re done with your soup, you start feeling better because the vapor from the soup helped decongest your nasal pathways,” Sempio said, adding that it gives people a false sense of security, associating relief with cure.
“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,” he said.
Various medical societies, including the Philippine Institute of Traditional and Alternative Health Care (PITAHC), have already issued statements regarding steam inhalation for COVID-19 patients.
Part of the statement reads: “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 College of Physicians, Philippine Society of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, and the Philippine College of Chest Physicians have likewise issued a joint statement warning that steam inhalation “does not kill the virus and may cause potential harm.”
“We cannot in good conscience endorse its preventive or curative measure,” the groups said.
Apart from COVID 19, Dr. Sempio also discourages the use of steam inhalation for patients suffering from an infectious condition like tuberculosis where the possibility of generating infectious droplets is high.