BRITISH doctors have warned not to copy a fake Covid prevention method of inhaling steam.
A video circulating online and on Whatsapp claims it can "save us all" from coronavirus infection.
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Other versions of the rumour send via chain message claim that inhaling steam through the mouth and nose kills the virus while it is still in the sinuses before it “reaches your lungs”.
The Royal College of Physicians has urged against practising steam inhalation, which it says could cause harm.
President Prof Andrew Goddard told the BBC: "At the moment the only thing we know that works for members of the public to prevent Covid is vaccination.
"I would urge anyone who sees this video to ignore it, there is no evidence that steam inhalation works, and there is good evidence it will do you harm."
Inhaling steam – which is hot, evaporated water – can burn the airways.
Research in May said half of burn centres across England were seeing an uptick in scalds linked to steam inhalation.
The study was led by Birmingham Women’s and Children’s NHS Foundation Trust.
"This is particularly the case in areas where Covid-19 (coronavirus) has been more prevalent", said Professor Naiem Moiemen, a burns consultant and plastic surgeon at the trust.
“There is no scientific evidence that steam inhalation provides symptomatic relief or prevents Covid-19 but what is clear is that it presents a risk for children.”
The burns team at Birmingham Children’s Hospital said it had seen six children with scalds from steam over one month, when it would usually see two a year.
Mr Colin Brewster, a specialist registrar in plastic and burns surgery at the trust said: “Resulting scalds have already led to hospital admissions, surgery and the possibility of life-long disfigurement and scarring.
"We’d urge families and those offering advice to discourage inhaling steam as a remedy for the treatment of illnesses such as the common cold, respiratory infections and, particularly, Covid-19.”
Two-thirds of centres in the study said they typically saw patients of Asian ethnicity.
Where did the rumour come from?
A video encouraging steam inhalation shows a man of Indian ethnicity saying that the practice will "save us all from coronavirus infection" and that it is "the most effective way to protect ourselves".
A BBC investigation tracked the video back to a chemical engineer, Nilesh Jogal, who is the director of an alternative medicine hospital in Gujarat, India.
In an interview, he claimed his team of 20 to 25 doctors had been using steam inhalation and no one had become infected so far.
This does not prove the treatment works.
Steam inhalation is a traditional home remedy for common colds and upper respiratory tract infections.
But there is no evidence to back it up as a treatment or a way to prevent the virus from infecting cells.
This would require a high-quality study, called a randomised controlled trial, where the practice is compared to a placebo.
One study in Italy gave a hint that steaming “might help easing the consequences of SARS-CoV-2 infection” in a mild or early infection.
It studied ten Covid patients who inhaled steam for around an hour for at least four days.
But the researchers said the “observation is only preliminary, it has obvious limitations and the beneficial effects we observed need confirmation in a controlled trial”.
Love Island star Anna Vakili told her followers she had used steam inhalation to overcome coronavirus in December.
Giving her 1.2 million fans tips on how she's helped to recover from the virus, she said: "Lots of ginger lemon honey warm drinks, vitamin d, verocca, steam inhalation with mint, paracetamol to bring down fever, ibuprofen for fever and pains – but please check it doesn't interact with any current conditions or medications).
"Sterimar spray for sinuses and a cup of freshly squeezed orange juice a day."
The best way to avoid getting ill with coronavirus is to wash your hands often, wear a face covering and socially distance from others.
Misinformation will cost lives
Experts fear the spread of misinformation during the pandemic – related to prevention methods, cures and vaccines – will cost lives.
When asked about circulation of misinformation on Whatsapp, the deputy medical officer for England said rumours were designed to "frighten people".
Speaking on the BBC, Prof Jonathan Van-Tam said: "I think we’re always concerned when we get disinformation and things that are patently wrong and designed to frighten people and damage their confidence in what people are doing."
However, he said "all the polls show that vaccine confidence is generally really high in the UK compared to many parts of the world".
Prof Van-Tam added: "If my central heating system breaks down I'm going to call a central heating engineer, I'm not going to ask a brain surgeon, so why would you go to those sources of information when you have readily accessible good sources in the NHS."
It comes after an NHS surgeon Dr Martin Griffiths has pledged to battle coronavirus vaccine hesitancy, saying he does not want people to “die because of misinformation”.
After receiving his Covid-19 vaccine, Dr Griffiths is urging fellow staff and others from black, Asian and other minority groups to get the jab.
People from minority ethnic backgrounds are more susceptible to Covid-19 but research has suggested they are among those most hesitant about getting vaccinated.
Dr Griffiths said this situation is “tragic” and something he is “not prepared to tolerate”.
A document released by the Government’s scientific advisory group (Sage) last month said among the barriers to vaccine uptake is low confidence in the vaccine and lack of endorsement from trusted leaders.
Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi has said his “big fear” is that Covid-19 will infect unvaccinated groups and “once it gets into particular communities it will go through them like wildfire”.
Antivaxx conspiracies and other misinformation typically spread through social media, and there have been calls for the platforms to better manage posts.
In a bid to prevent harmful misinformation deterring people from receiving the vaccine, Facebook has expanded the list of banned false claims related to the virus.
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