Wednesday, November 18, 2020

What Expert Doctors really say about Steam Inhalation as Health Remedy


"To steam or not to steam? That is the question."

While most Filipino doctors may agree that suob or steam inhalation has its benefits as it may provide temporary relief from the usual symptoms of colds and other upper respiratory infections, it won't actually make your infection go away any faster. Suob or steam inhalation will never be a cure. Why is that so? "Steam inhalation doesn't actually kill the virus responsible for the infection," explained Dr. Earl Louis Sempio, an expert pulmonologist and biochemist who was the main speaker at the recent Zoom lecture on Steam Inhalation conducted by Unilab, the country's leading pharmaceutical company through its AlagangUnilab campaign. 

Unilab Inc. (Unilab), through its “Alagang Unilab: HealthierPH Series,” launched a virtual symposium that talked about the pros and cons of steam inhalation. "At best, steam inhalation might make you feel a little better as your body fights your cold. But it will never cure the infection," added Dr. Sempio. 

Dr. Earl Louis A. Sempio

The main benefit of breathing in moist warm steam may help ease the feelings of irritation and swollen blood vessels in the nasal passages. It might also help thin the mucus in our sinuses which allows them to empty more quickly. By doing this, it can allow your breathing to return to normal, but only for a short period of time. So basically, the effects of steam inhalation are only temporary relief. 

Steam inhalation, tuob or suob in local parlance, is the process of inhaling water vapor to relieve stuffy nose brought by a cold or sinus infection. Some use it as a therapy for bronchitis or nasal allergies, while some resort to its effect when they have fever or flu.

Steam inhalation may provide some temporary relief from the following symptoms:

  • the common cold
  • the flu (influenza)
  • sinus infections (infectious sinusitis)
  • bronchitis
  • nasal allergies
Even if most of our elders believe in tuob or suob, expert doctors firmly state that they maybe quick relief but isn't a cure. It is widely practiced especially in local barrios and in our homes. But the problem is when people feel better so they get a sense of security that they no longer need to seek a doctor in order to address their condition. They often mistake that because steam inhalation made them feel better, they will be well in due time. 

"Steam can make one feel better and it is the same thing as giving someone a bowl of chicken soup when you're sick. When you're done with your soup, you start feeling better because the vapor from the soup helped decongest your nasal passages. But it doesn't necessarily need to be from a boiling pot of water. It's important to keep yourself hydrated and drink plenty of fluids to replenish what's lost."

However, for the COVID-19 virus,  Dr. Sempio strongly goes against steam inhalation for coronavirus patients. “Steam inhalation loosens secretions, that’s why a COVID patient shouldn’t do it. It poses a great threat to everyone around the patient especially if he starts coughing in the middle of the treatment."

“Scientific studies suggest that steam inhalation is indeed effective
against symptoms of colds and that it increases nasal patency… However, tuob/suob cannot be recommended as a standard care treatment for COVID-19 until it is proven by controlled clinical studies.  It can even cause potential harm. As practicing medical doctors, we cannot endorse its preventive or curative measure." 

Dr. Sempio also discourages the use of steam inhalation with patients suffering from an infectious condition like Tuberculosis where the possibility of generating infectious droplets is high. Nothing beats seeking a health professional's opinion to properly address one's medical condition, especially cough and cold. 

Cliche as it may sound, but while listening to the invitational Zoom lecture from Unilab, I learned that prevention is always better than cure. Hygiene is an utmost concern because it's one of the best ways to prevent acquiring any infection. If we're worried about any viral infection, we usually get it through the secretions or the airborne particles. Dr. Sempio also warned the public when they Google their symptoms on the internet. Not everything we read on the internet is true. So it's best to double-check. Read-only from reliable websites. More so, ask the expert doctors themselves. Dr. Sempio said they even created a Facebook page where patients can ask questions to them directly. The Facebook page is called Philpulmo. 

If you're not feeling well, drink plenty of fluids. You also need to take ample rest in order to feel better. Eat proper nutrition and stop any form of abuse by sleeping well. 

Last but not the least, Dr. Sempio also shared that most Filipinos are suffering from vitamin deficiency which makes them prone to infection. Proper nutrition is the key to help improve one's immune system. 

So to steam or not to steam is no longer a question. Cough is not a disease. Steam inhalation is a remedy, not a cure. Anything in excess can be dangerous. 

Alagang Unilab: HealthierPH Series is part of Unilab’s initiatives in reaching out to the public to provide relevant health information on primary healthcare and chronic conditions. For more information about Unilab, log on to their website at, or visit their  Facebook or Instagram pages (@unilab). For inquiries and other concerns, you may contact the Unilab Consumer Care Center at +632-8-864522-1 (UNILAB-1) or

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