Mobile steam inhalers to fight COVID-19 receives backlash in Tamil Nadu

Steam inhalation or steaming has become a commonly prescribed home  remedy against Covid during the second wave currently surging in India.

Published: 16th May 2021 10:32 PM  |   Last Updated: 16th May 2021 10:37 PM   |  A+A-

A screengrab of steam inhalation video shared by Vanathi Srinivasan. (Photo | Twitter/@VanathiBJP)

Express News Service

CHENNAI: After Coimbatore BJP MLA Vanathi Srinivasan installed mobile steam inhalation vehicles and stations in her constituency, Twitteratis raised concerns about public safety on Sunday.

The Railway police too installed about a dozen portable inhalation steamers at the Central Railway Station at Chennai, receiving similar feedback.

Steam inhalation or steaming has become a commonly prescribed home remedy against Covid during the second wave currently surging in India. There was enthusiastic participation from the public and even
hospitals have prescribed steaming to some Covid patients. However, mass steaming events are suspected to cause more damage than good.

"Steam Inhalation Station and Mobile Steam Inhalation Vehicle inaugurated in Coimbatore today. Frontline workers of Coimbatore Corporation were the first beneficiaries today," She tweeted on
Sunday. A video of users gathering around the machine and inhaling steam without masks is attached therewith.

A barrage of tweets criticising the initiatives followed.

Steam is not recommended as a treatment for the coronavirus by either the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or the World Health Organization (WHO).

While steaming helps relieve congestion or a cold in the upper respiratory tract, it does not help much with Covid, pneumonia or any condition of the lung, says Dr S Srinivasan, a general physician who runs a private clinic near Ashok Nagar. "Steaming eases breathing temporarily by allowing the mucus to be released more freely. It does not however treat an infection," he said, adding that sometimes use of
essential oils may trigger asthma or even seizures.

"Those under home quarantine can inhale steam in private with a bedsheet or towel over them. It is, however risky to inhale steam in public as people may cough without a mask and we do not know how the
virus is transmitted in a humid environment," he said.

It is also worth noting that several messages are doing rounds on social media recommending people to inhale steam twice a day and making claims such as "the virus dies on contact with steam which is
70 degrees celsius."

Many of these messages attribute them to ayurvedic and medical studies, while there is no scientific study that has shown that steam inhalation can prevent Covid infection.


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