Steam inhalation provides quick relief and not cure, says expert

Published November 19, 2020, 3:37 PM

by Betheena Kae Unite

Steam inhalation or “tuob” is only a health remedy not a cure, a medical expert reiterated Thursday in a virtual symposium aimed at addressing misconceptions on the traditional practice.

In a webinar dubbed “To steam or not to steam: A discussion on Steam Inhalation as a Health Remedy,” pulmonologist and biochemist Dr. Earl Louis Sempio helped shed some light on the various misinformation surrounding the treatment modality.

Sempio underscored that while steam inhalation has been practiced in the country for centuries, it does not mean that it is considered a cure. It is only a “quick relief,” he said.

“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,” Sempio said.

Steam inhalation, tuob or suob in local parlance, is the process of inhaling water vapor to relieve stuffy nose brought by a cold or sinus infection. Some use it as a therapy for bronchitis or nasal allergies, while some resort to its effect when they have fever or flu.

The procedure involves lowering one’s head about eight to 12 inches away from hot water and inhaling slowly and deeply through the nose for at least two to five minutes.

While steam inhalation alleviates the symptoms of nasal congestion, Sempio stressed that it is not a cure as the steam does not address the virus that caused it.

Hindi natin sinasabi na hindi totoo yung nararamdaman ninyong ginhawa. Ang sinasabi natin tama, nakakaramdam tayo ng ginhawa (We are not discounting the fact that you felt relieved. What we are saying is that yes, it gave you relief), it’s a remedy but then it is not the cure for the underlying problem,” Sempio said.

The medical expert also said that the problem is when people feel better they get a false sense of security that they no longer need a doctor’s advice to address their condition, adding that “people often associate relief with cure, which is a mistake that can potentially hurt in the long run.”

The webinar also aimed at encouraging the public to do away with misinformation, especially with the current health crisis.

Sempio recommended a good combination of reading on the internet and asking experts about the patients’ condition.

Amid the pandemic, Sempio also strongly discourages steam inhalation for coronavirus patients.

“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 have already issued statements regarding steam inhalation for Covid-19 patients. The Philippine Institute of Traditional and Alternative Health Care (PITAHC) earlier said that  “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 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 discourages the use of steam inhalation with patients suffering from an infectious condition like tuberculosis, where the possibility of generating infectious droplets is high.

He reminded everyone to seek a health professional’s opinion when it comes to addressing medical concerns, especially cough and cold as he enumerated tips on how to prevent an infection and stay healthy.

“Prevention is always better than cure. First is hygiene because that’s the primary way of us getting the infection. If we’re worried about a viral infection, we usually get it through the secretions or the airborne particles. If you’re already sick, drink plenty of fluids, that’s number one. Second, you need to have rest, you have to have adequate sleep, adequate nutrition, and remove any form of abuse to the body,” he noted.

The symposium was organized by Unilab through its “Alagang Unilab: HealthierPH Series.”

 
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