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‘There’s No Quick Fix For COVID’; Doctors Bust Myths Around Steam Inhalation

Leading pulmonologists, Dr Mrinal Sircar and Dr Vikas Maurya, and Dr Faheem Younus, help bust myths about curing COVID-19 with home remedies that are doing the rounds on social media platforms.

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This article is a part of a series by The Better India to share verified information about COVID-19 care. While several posts on various aspects of fighting COVID-19 are being circulated on social media and messaging services like WhatsApp, we urge you not to trust unverified content. To separate fact from fiction, we will be sharing the videos and content with doctors and experts and bring you their responses with scientific research-backed information.

India breached the 3 lakh cases a day mark last week, and people have been prompt to circulate balderdash home remedies and techniques for COVID-19 patients in home isolation. The latest fad is promoting the use of camphor, eucalyptus oil and neem while doing steam inhalation.

Myth no. 1

COVID-19
Is this something you are trying at home?

The WhatsApp message doing the rounds suggests making a small potli (bag) consisting of camphor, ajwain (carom seeds) laung (cloves) and a few drops of eucalyptus oil. The message claims that when this mix is inhaled it helps in “increasing the oxygen levels” in the body.

Dr Mrinal Sircar, Director and Head, Pulmonology, Fortis Hospital Noida vehemently disagrees.

Dr Mrinal Sircar

He says, “No, it cannot. Please maintain social distancing, wear your mask and sanitise. 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.”

Do note that on the contrary, inhaling the mixture of camphor can lead to camphor poisoning, which in some cases is life-threatening. In patients who are COVID-19 positive, the blood oxygen saturation decreases because of the viral infection of the lungs and lower respiratory tract damage. It has little to do with nasal blockage and therefore relieving the nasal obstruction does not lead to an improved oxygen saturation level.

Myth no. 2

COVID
Screenshot of the video in discussion.

Various online platforms have been making claims that “steam therapy kills the coronavirus”. A video being circulated also makes such a claim, adding that the addition of neem leaves and some ginger to the water while inhaling steam helps alleviate the COVID-19 symptoms.

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Commenting on this video, Dr Vikas Maurya, Director and Head of Department, Pulmonology, Fortis Hospital Shalimar Bagh says, “While it may provide relief, as steam always does, it is not a remedy which can be used to ‘cure’ COVID-19.”

Dr Vikas Maurya

He adds, “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.”

Regardless of whatever condiments are added into the water for steam inhalation, if you have COVID-19 symptoms or/and have tested positive, please consult a doctor. “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,” he adds.

Myth no. 3

If you can hold your breath for 10 seconds without discomfort, you don’t have COVID-19.

Dr Vikas Maurya helps debunk this myth saying, “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, it is imperative that you get tested.” He adds, “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, MD, who has been active on Twitter debunking many such myths. In one of his tweets, he says, “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.”

The only way of ascertaining whether or not you are infected with the SARs-COV 2 virus, is to get tested. And keep all such myths at bay.

(Edited by Yoshita Rao)

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