Tuob, the Cebuano word for inhaling steam in an enclosed space like under a towel or blanket to induce sweat, is a popular home remedy for the common cold, but it won’t kill the novel coronavirus, contrary to a claim reposted recently in more than 70 Facebook groups and pages.
The repost also falsely said the virus behind the COVID-19 pandemic dies at 27 degrees Celsius and other viruses at 50.
Claims that inhaling vapor from boiling or hot water, especially salt and water mixture, would kill SARS-CoV-2 persist despite repeated reminders from the World Health Organization that there is no cure or treatment for COVID-19 and exposure to temperatures higher than 25 degrees Celsius is no protection against the virus.
These claims have been debunked by several fact checkers, including FactRakers which examined a similar claim about steam inhalation made in a viral video. (See Inhaling steam of boiling water with salt won’t cure COVID-19)
PDATE: The Department on Health on June 25 warned the public on the dangers of tuob or steam therapy.
The latest claim, reposted between April 15 and 18 in many accounts with Visayan and Mindanaoan followers, leads off with:
TUOB (Steam Inhalation) May Save YOUR LIFE
It then urged:
If we all do this regularly we would stop the spread of the coronavirus!
The purported reason:
(V)iruses die at 50ºC. The report says that corona dies at 27ºC.
WHO has said there is no specific medicine or treatment for COVID-19:
While some western, traditional or home remedies may provide comfort and alleviate symptoms of COVID-19, there is no evidence that current medicine can prevent or cure the disease. WHO does not recommend self-medication with any medicines, including antibiotics, as a prevention or cure for COVID 19.
But it urged infected people, especially those severely ill, to get appropriate care to relieve and treat the symptoms.
WHO has also dismissed rumors that the virus is not heat-resistant and can be killed in a temperature of 26 to 27 degrees.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said scientists still do not know whether weather and temperature affect the spread of COVID-19:
We don’t have direct data for this virus, nor do we have direct data for a temperature-based cutoff for inactivation at this point. The necessary temperature would also be based on the materials of the surface, the environment, etc.
Health experts have also dismissed hot drinks as a protection against or cure for COVID-19.
Steam inhalation or drinking hot liquid is unlikely to raise the temperature enough in the respiratory tract to kill any of the virus inside the cells there, they said.
The normal human body temperature remains around 36.5 to 37 degrees Celsius, WHO said.
Studies have shown that some viruses may be inactivated at high temperatures ranging from 60 to 95 degrees Celsius, not 50 degrees as the viral post claims. The studies did not cover SARS-CoV-2, which was detected only late last year.
One study did find steam inhalation to be a dangerous procedure as it may lead to burn injuries.
Data from the social media monitoring tool Crowdtangle showed that 67 Facebook groups reposted the latest claim about steam inhalation as a cure for COVID-19.
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False claim: Steam therapy kills coronavirus. (2020, March 30). Retrieved https://www.reuters.com/article/uk-factcheck-steam-kills-coronavirus/false-claim-steam-therapy-kills-coronavirus-idUSKBN21H2LK
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World Health Organization. (n.d.). Rumours and facts on COVID-19. Issue #2. Retrieved from https://www.who.int/docs/default-source/nepal-documents/novel-coronavirus/un-rumour-tracking-english-issue-2.pdf?sfvrsn=bd68b830_2