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Myth or Fact? Steam Inhalation Against COVID-19

Medically reviewed by Regina Victoria Boyles, MD · Pediatrics

Written by Jan Alwyn Batara · Updated Nov 20, 2022

Myth or Fact? Steam Inhalation Against COVID-19

Steam inhalation for coronavirus has been making the rounds on social media. Commonly known as “tuob” or “suob,” steam inhalation has been a common practice for Filipinos since olden days. But when it comes to COVID-19, just how effective is steam inhalation for coronavirus?

How effective is steam inhalation for coronavirus?

In the Philippines, alternative medicine is still widely practiced. This is mainly due to the fact that a large number of Filipinos cannot afford to buy medicine or go to the hospital, and there is limited access to healthcare in parts of the country.

This is the reason why alternative forms of treatment such as “tuob” are used to treat respiratory illnesses, including COVID-19. In fact, Cebu Governor Gwendolyn Garcia recently released a memorandum that encouraged government employees to practice this form of treatment.

Local medical experts do not recommend steam inhalation for coronavirus

However, the Department of Health (DOH), as well as various medical societies, have warned against using “tuob” to treat COVID-19.

According to Health Department OIC Maria Rosario Vergeire, the effects of steam inhalation against COVID-19 remain unproven. The DOH added that using steam might even cause burn injuries, and can even spread the virus further through aerosolization.

In response to Governor Garcia’s memorandum, a joint statement from thirteen (13) medical societies was released saying that steam inhalation is not recommended for treatment for coronavirus.

Referring to updated medical evidence regarding steam inhalation for coronavirus, they emphasized that “steam inhalation has not been demonstrated to kill the virus, specifically the Sars-Cov-2 virus that causes COVID-19.”

They also stressed how steam inhalation may even be dangerous, particularly if done by those with COVID-19. Why? Because it may even facilitate the spread, especially when performed as a group.

This is why they cannot, “in good conscience, endorse its use a preventive or curative measure”.

Here is a list of the medical societies that were part of the joint statement that made a stand against steam inhalation for coronavirus:

  • Philippine College of Chest Physicians
  • University of the Philippines Medical Alumni Society (Cebu Chapter)
  • Philippine College of Physicians (Central Visayas Chapter)
  • Philippine Society for Microbiology and Infectious Diseases
  • University of Santo Tomas Alumni Association (Cebu Chapter)
  • Philippine Dermatological Society
  • Philippine Obstetrical and Gynecological Society
  • Central Visayas Society of Ophthalmology
  • Philippine College of Surgeons
  • Philippine Pediatric Society
  • Pediatric Respiratory Specialists of Cebu Inc
  • Philippine Academy of Family Physicians
  • Philippine Society of General Surgeons (Central Visayas Chapter)

What do experts say about steam inhalation for coronavirus?

Steam inhalation is widely used as a home remedy for the common coughs and colds. According to proponents of steam inhalation, the steam helps loosen up the mucus, clears the respiratory passages, and helps inhibit the spread of the common cold virus.

So far, there is very little scientific evidence to support these claims, as well as the effectiveness of steam inhalation specifically for coronavirus. It could be possible that inhaling steam can help alleviate some of the symptoms commonly seen in COVID such as coughs and colds. But it is important to note that alleviating the symptoms of a disease does not necessarily mean that it is curing the disease.

An example would be in the case of cold medicine. Until now, there is no cure for the common cold. However, cold medicine works in alleviating some of the worse symptoms and can make recovery easier. This could also be the case for steam inhalation, which could help with some symptoms, but not cure the disease.

In addition, some doctors have warned against the possible dangers of steam inhalation for coronavirus or any other illness.

It is not uncommon to see patients, especially children, who have been scalded or burned as a result of steam inhalation. This is the reason why some doctors have showed their disapproval of steam inhalation for coronavirus as a form of treatment.

There is currently no cure for COVID-19

At the moment, there is no cure or even a vaccine for COVID-19. Scientists are still trying to understand the virus, and while initial trials for vaccines and some treatments seem promising, they are still a long way from being available to the general public.

Taking precautionary measures to avoid COVID-19 is still the best way to stop the spread of the virus.

What is the best way to prevent getting infected?

Here are some ways that you can avoid getting infected:

  • Practice social distancing. Keeping your distance from other people can significantly lower your risk of catching COVID-19.
  • If you need to go outside, be sure to wear a face mask to avoid inhaling droplets with the virus.
  • Practice frequent hand washing with soap and water. Ideally, wash your hands vigorously for at least 20 seconds to help kill off the virus.
  • Avoid going to crowded places as you are increasing your risk of getting infected by doing so.
  • Avoid touching surfaces such as railings, doorknobs etc. especially in public places. The virus can live on various surfaces for an extended period of time, and it is possible that you can still get infected.
  • Wipe down any surfaces that may have come in contact with people who tested positive for COVID-19.
  • Avoid touching your mouth or your face, especially if you have not washed or disinfected your hands.
  • Try to keep away from people who are sick.
  • Avoid having people over, even if they are not sick. Having visitors increases your risk of COVID-19, especially since you might not know if they have been in contact with a person who tested positive.

Lastly, if you feel any symptoms of COVID-19, be sure to isolate yourself if you can.

This is to lower the risk that you might transfer the virus to other people, especially if you are living with your family or with housemates.

If your symptoms get worse, do not hesitate to call emergency services so that you can be taken care of in a hospital.

Learn more about COVID-19, here.


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Medically reviewed by

Regina Victoria Boyles, MD


Written by Jan Alwyn Batara · Updated Nov 20, 2022

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