Specialist burns team warns of scald risk from home remedy steam inhalation | News

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Specialist burns team warns of scald risk from home remedy steam inhalation

Birmingham Children’s Hospital’s specialist burns team is warning families to be aware of the scalds risk associated with the home remedy of inhaling steam following an unhelpful myth circulating that inhaling steam can prevent COVID-19 (coronavirus).

Inhaling steam is sometimes used as a remedy for common colds and upper respiratory tract infections. Evidence of the effectiveness of the practice is weak and theories that steam loosens mucus, opens nasal passages and reduces mucosal inflammation, or that heat inhibits replication of viruses, remains unproven. 

Sadly, our centre has seen increase of young people needing care after suffering such scalds from boiling water linked to inhaling steam. Such injuries have the potential to be life-changing.

A research study found that other centres across the country had also seen an increase.

Professor Naiem Moiemen, Consultant Burns and Plastic Surgeon at Birmingham Women’s and Children’s NHS Foundation Trust, said:

“We have observed a worrying increase recently here in Birmingham, as have others across the country, in the numbers of serious scald injuries linked to the practice of steam inhalation. This is particularly the case in areas where COVID-19 (coronavirus) has been more prevalent.

“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.”

Mr Colin Brewster, a Specialist Registrar in Plastic and Burns Surgery at Birmingham Women’s and Children’s NHS Foundation 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.”

Every day, more than 100 children present to emergency departments with burn injuries in the UK, with scald injuries being the most common cause of burns in children.

Should the worst happen and an injury does occur quick action can reduce the potential for long-term injury or scarring. Remembering the 3Cs in such an event can make all the difference:

  • Cool the burn with running cold tap water for 20 minutes and remove all clothing and jewellery (unless it is melted or firmly stuck to the wound).
  • Call for help – 999, 111 or your GP for advice.
  • Cover with cling film or a sterile, non-fluffy dressing or cloth. Make sure the injured child is kept warm.