Your Covid-19 questions answered

Does steaming really help fight Covid-19?

09 July 2021 - 07:00
By kyle zeeman AND Kyle Zeeman
Can steaming help you fight Covid-19? Stock photo.
Image: 123RF/IAKOVENKO Can steaming help you fight Covid-19? Stock photo.

Summary: Steaming is good to relieve Covid-19 symptoms but does not cure or prevent the virus. Inhaling steam can be dangerous, so extreme caution is advised.

Ask around and no doubt someone will tell you that steaming will help you avoid and/or treat Covid-19. But is it true?

Inhaling steam can help open nasal passages and ease a stuffy nose, but experts are still divided on just how effective it is as a home remedy and warned about the possible dangers it brings.

Dr Marlin McKay, who runs his own medical practice in Roodepoort, told TimesLIVE he recommends steaming in conjunction with other medicines and treatment.

“Steaming is very effective, amazingly. I have never been a supporter of it, but, having had Covid-19 and steamed three times a day, I found it a simple, cheap and effective tool for minimising symptoms and easing congestion. You sleep better and feel better

“It has become one of my favourite tools to manage Covid-19,” he said.

In a statement last July the World Health Organisation (WHO) in Africa said steam is not a safe treatment for the coronavirus.

“Steam inhalation does not cure Covid-19 and is not a safe treatment as it may cause serious burns. No matter how hot the steam is, it will not reach the virus present in the cells of the infected individual.”

This was repeated by Africa Check, who said the SA department of health includes several other preventive measures that are safer.

“In general, heat cannot prevent transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus or cure Covid-19. Public health authorities, including SA’s department of health, recommend taking preventive measures, including wearing a cloth face mask, regular handwashing and physical distancing from others.”

A representative from the  US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) told Reuters that he was not aware of any scientific studies that show steam therapy helps with Covid-19.

“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 also warned about the risks of inhaling steam

“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 in a statement.

“Sadly, our centre has seen an 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.”