A viral video in Filipino falsely touts that inhaling the steam of boiling salted water is the most effective cure for COVID-19.
Viewed 11 million times, the three-and-a-half-minute video of the Facebook page Mga Trending echoes a similar claim that has been debunked by fact checkers such as Agence France Presse and the Associated Press, and refuted by health experts.
Other versions of the false claim recommend inhaling steam from boiling water with a mixture of salt and orange or citrus peels.
Steam inhalation, a popular home remedy for the common cold, can also be dangerous because it may have “serious adverse side effects in terms of burn injuries,” warned a study published in the The British Journal of General Practice.
Titled “Gamot sa COVID 19, wag na magpanic (Drug for COVID-19, don’t panic),” Mga Trending's video claims inhaling the steam from a pot of boiling water with three teaspoons of salt dissolved in it melts the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 in the respiratory tract.
The video says the virus gets expelled when a person sweats; hence, the need to drape oneself with a towel—or better yet, a blanket—to induce sweating.
Citing an unnamed study as the basis for its claim, Mga Trending's video said the virus has to be killed while inside the body.
Makaka-survive kayo kung malulusaw ang virus sa daanan ng hininga mo o respiratory system at hanggang tuluyang mapatay niyo ang virus na ito dahil ang virus naglalagi at nagpaparami sa respiratory system (You will survive if you dissolve the virus in the air passageway or respiratory system until you eventually kill it as the virus remains and multiplies in the respiratory system)
The viral video claims the heat that is inhaled kills the virus inside the respiratory system while the salt causes the virus to detach from the nose, mouth and other parts of the body, and even the breath, and be eliminated from the body through sweating.
This recommended treatment is not on the World Health Organization’s advice on COVID-19.
WHO said there is no specific medicine as yet to prevent or treat COVID-19, but urged infected people to get appropriate care to relieve and treat symptoms and those with severe illness to receive optimized supportive care. It also said:
Some specific treatments are under investigation, and will be tested through clinical trials. WHO is helping to accelerate research and development efforts with a range or partners.
WHO has also debunked a popular myth that regularly rinsing the nose with saline solution prevents respiratory infections and protects people from infection with the new coronavirus. But it said “some limited evidence” shows this can help people recover more quickly from the common cold.
Another false claim related to saline solutions is that gargling salt with water can eliminate the virus, according to a fact check by Rappler.
And yet another false claim: Drinking water regularly and keeping the mouth moist protects one from COVID-19.
Mga Trending's video, which has garnered about 231,500 likes, 12,000 comments and 461,500 shares since it was uploaded March 27, assures viewers they have nothing to lose by trying the remedy.
But the study in the British medical journal says differently of steam inhalation therapy:
As…the number and extent of complications of this therapy in terms of burn injury are significant, especially in children, steam inhalation therapy should be considered a dangerous procedure and not recommended anymore in professional guidelines and patient brochures.
Baartmans, M., Kerkhof, E., Vloemans, J., Dokter, J., Nijman, S., Tibboel, D., & Nieuwenhuis, M. (2012). Steam inhalation therapy: severe scalds as an adverse side effect. The British Journal of General Practice: The journal of the Royal College of General Practitioners, 62(600), e473–e477. https://doi.org/10.3399/bjgp12X652337
Dunlop, W. (2020, March 27). Inhaling steam will not treat or cure novel coronavirus infection. Agence France Presse. Retrieved from https://factcheck.afp.com/inhaling-steam-will-not-treat-or-cure-novel-coronavirus-infection
Dupu, B. (2020, March 25). Breathing steam from boiling water, salt and orange peel won’t prevent virus. Associated Press. Retrieved from https://apnews.com/afs:Content:8683380135
FALSE: Gargling salt water ‘eliminates’ coronavirus. (2020, March 14). Retrieved from https://www.rappler.com/newsbreak/fact-check/254504-gargling-salt-water-eliminates-coronavirus
Gorvett, Z. (2020, March 20.) No, drinking water doesn't kill coronavirus. Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20200319-covid-19-will-drinking-water-keep-you-safe-from-coronavirus
Mga Trending. (2020, March 27). Pinaka mabisang paraan kontra COVID 19/Corona Virus [Facebook update]. Retrieved from https://www.facebook.com/mgatrending /videos /214170923017211/
World Health Organization (n.d.) Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) advice for the public: Myth busters. Retrieved from https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public/myth-busters