IT WAS in early May when Cebu City Councilors Jerry Guardo and Nestor Archival filed a resolution to set up steam inhalation rooms in the city’s isolation centers. The legislators were quite clear that it was only meant to alleviate congestion and breathing difficulties among Covid-19 patients at the quarantine centers, and thus the City Government thereafter provided steam inhalation rooms in the quarantine centers. City Mayor Edgardo Labella promptly supported the project.
“Tuob” is the local term for therapeutic steam inhalation. It basically shares the same principle with that of menthol inhalers and asthma nebulizers in unclogging congested upper respiratory tracts through steaming, in most cases with the aid of medicinal airway dilators.
The tuob idea quickly picked up, local officials bought into it and allocated budget for kits to be widely distributed to the public. And why not, it was easy to believe that the old and tested home remedy could be perfect adjunct to our health care capacities in the time of Covid-19. It was affordable and easy to prepare.
The Cebu Provincial Government had also emphasized that it was encouraging citizens in the towns to perform tuob at certain periods of the day.
These decisions were informed by ground realities of just how difficult it is for most citizens to seek proper medical care these days—costly and oftentimes inaccessible during the rigid quarantine. Most hospitals are either full to the brim and most doctors require incoming patients to submit themselves first to Covid-19 test, which costs an average of P10,000, inclusive of the test kits itself at P7,500, and the personal protective equipment for the swab performer at P2,500. Imagine spending that much for your simple colds and cough.
Recently, however, the tuob picked up steam, a cloud of doubt rose against it with a good sector of medical groups venting their apprehensions. One collective statement thus read: “Because steam inhalation does not kill the virus and may cause potential harm, we cannot, in good conscience, endorse its use as preventive or curative measure.”
The Department of Health has also raised its concerns against tuob, emphasizing that steaming only aerolizes the Covid-19 virus and thus the worse case scenario of instead spreading the disease.
With not much clarity invested into it by its promoters, the misconception persists that it heals one of Covid-19. Tuob only has palliative effects, decongesting airways to restore normal breathing, but it cannot eliminate the virus. Patients may have rid themselves of the symptoms, but one could still move about as carriers, and even more dangerous because they don’t look like one.
And thus, a widespread practice of tuob might take the place of early detection of Covid-19 cases in a populace, projecting instead a false picture of an unaffected population.