In the times of Covid Pandemic, everybody is being haunted by a question, “what if?” What if I get it too! What if I need oxygen cylinders! What if I remedesiver! What if I do not get a bed in the hospital! The mere thought of a covid infection is enough to cease someone’s heartbeat for a moment. However, several methods are going viral across the internet that claims to be keeping you away from the covid 19 infections and if you catch it, they claim to cure it too.
One such treatment is steam therapy. Several practitioners of steam therapy believe that it not only prevents the infection but also cures it, by killing the virus and not letting it multiply within our systems. We tried consulting some health professionals regarding the same, and here’s what they have to say.
Steam relieves congestion:
Whenever there is congestion due to cold in the respiratory tract, steam is quite helpful since it relieves the cough and clears the throat. If a person suffering from Corona (caused by the Covid 19 virus) is having symptoms similar to cold and cough and has a choked throat, steam could help them by clearing their throat and relieving congestion. However, if we consider other conditions like pneumonia, the damage reaches the lungs and it cannot be cured by steam. Similarly, in the case of the covid 19 virus infection, the steam cannot kill the “virus” and cure the disease. It only helps to reduce symptoms like a stuffy nose or sinusitis.
Talking about the same, a doctor from the Christian Medical College, Vellore asserted, “Steaming helps relieve congestion in the nose and upper respiratory tract. But it does nothing whatsoever to prevent Covid or treat the virus or affect the progression of the disease. Additionally, any respiratory or breathing distress itself cannot be relieved by steaming.”
How does steam reduce congestion?
Whenever there is an infection in the body, like a nasal infection, in this case, the blood vessels lining the nose, become irritated and inflamed. They release mucous, which lines the inner surface of the nose and the nasal tract. When we take steam, it dilates the nasal passages and the blood vessels lining them. Therefore, it becomes easier to breathe, the mucus is released, and it even lubricates the inner walls of the nose. However, all these effects are temporary and they cannot solve the root cause of the problem.
A report presented by Reuters said that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or the World Health Organization (WHO) haven’t suggested steam as a method to cure or prevent the coronavirus infection. Instead, they have accepted steam as a home remedy, which can be used in case a person is suffering from cold or respiratory tract infections. It is just a temporary method to relieve uneasiness for some time.
How to take steam therapy?
Boil water, while doing so, do not forget to add some additional medicines that you might have. Once the water is hot enough, take it off the gas stove. Place your head 12 inches above the water surface. Cover your head and the vessel with a towel. This will help in preventing any steam to leak out. Take slow breaths for about 5 minutes. You will start feeling like the cough inside is melting. Clear your nose and throat. Taking steam twice a day can help relieve congestion.
Does steam therapy have any side effects?
Steam therapy is very beneficial as it relieves you from a congested nose and throat but if it is not done in the right way, as directed in the previous paragraph, it might have some bad effects too. If the steam is too hot and taken for a long time, it can cause the scaling of the skin and this might result in the drying of the inner surfaces of the nasal passage. In some severe cases, steam if taken at extremely high temperatures, might even cause burns in your respiratory tract and cause severe drying up of the facial skin. This dried skin might also cause some fungal and bacterial infections on the face and around the neck.
Bursting the cloud of myths:
When Dr. Mrinal Sircar, the Director and Head of the Pulmonology department in Fortis Hospital Noida, was asked if steam therapy can fight against the covid infection, he cleared the air and said “No, it cannot. Please maintain social distancing, wear your mask and sanitize. Do not follow any such myth. In case you are infected, follow the line of treatment suggested to you by your doctor. This is not the correct time to perpetuate myths.”
Taking about the same, Dr. Vikas Maurya, the Director and Head of Department, Pulmonology at the Fortis Hospital Shalimar Bagh, asserted, “One should not think that just because they are feeling slightly better, they can consider themselves ‘without COVID’ or ‘cured’. Steam helps always but it is not a cure.”
He added, “Do not take matters into your own hands. These are merely temporary relief measures which will make you feel better but will not cure you,”
Another rumor doing rounds on social media and WhatsApp groups is that if you can hold your breath for 10 seconds, you haven’t been infected with the coronavirus. Canceling the rumor, Dr. Vikas said, “Definitely not. Please get tested if you feel you have COVID-19 symptoms. If you have fever, cough, cold, breathlessness, loss of smell and taste, you must get tested. Please isolate. Make sure you do not pass on the infection to someone else. COVID-19 travels through droplets in the air, holding your breath for 10-15 or even 20 seconds does not prove anything.”
Dr. Faheem Younus addressed the same rumor and said, “Most young patients with coronavirus will be able to hold their breaths for much longer than 10 seconds. And many elderly, without the virus, won’t be able to do so.”