Mangaluru police set up mass steam inhalation unit, experts question the move

According to the Mangaluru DCP, the steam inhalation unit was set up after consulting Ayurveda, yoga and naturopathy professionals.
Mangaluru policeman inhaling steam
Mangaluru policeman inhaling steam
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On Thursday, May 29, pictures of a mass steam inhalation facility outside the police station at Barke in Karnataka’s Mangaluru surfaced online. According to The Hindu, at this facility, a pressure cooker which supplies the steam is connected to a steel pipe with three vents or openings, from which people can inhale the steam. The pressure cooker is filled with water, tulsi leaves and cloves. The visuals shared on social media show police officials with their masks down and sitting in close proximity to each other, which go against the basic measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus.  

According to the police, the steam inhalation facility was set up after consultation with ayurvedic doctors, yoga and naturopathy professionals, as a measure to avoid COVID-19 infection. “Steam inhalation clears lungs and helps during this time (to help avoid COVID-19),” said Vinay A Gaonkar, who is the Deputy Commissioner of Police in Mangaluru. The images of the officials inhaling steam were shared by BL Santosh, the National General Secretary of the BJP. He tweeted, “ Another mass steam inhaling arrangement.. This time from Barkey Police Station , Mangaluru . #IndiaFightsCorona.”

When asked about the scientific validity of using steam against the coronavirus, he said, “This is not a cure for those who already have COVID-19. It only clears the lungs. It is not that nobody will get COVID-19 if they do this, but this is a measure to avoid getting the disease.”

The police personnel participate in the steam inhalation exercise every day. However, many experts have said that there is no proof that it actually works, and in some cases, can even be dangerous. Concerns have been raised over the kind of message the police’s practice conveys to the public.  

"Any mass gatherings such as this, without masks, can allow the virus to spread. It is a danger to the population. It is best if it can be avoided," said Dr K Lakshman who is a consulting surgeon in a reputed hospital in Bengaluru.

He added, “In this pandemic situation, science has taken a backseat. For anything that is scientific, there has to be some evidence and this steam inhalation has no evidence of being useful.” 

Commissioner Gaonkar explained that the steam inhalation outside the Barke station is completely voluntary. He also told TNM that such a system has not been replicated anywhere else.

When asked if the measure might come across as misleading, the Commissioner claimed, “Some people have endorsed it as a good measure and some haven’t. Who has ruled this measure out as not a remedy? For the sake of discussion I ask, Remdesevir is also claimed to be useless by some but some claim it to be useful."

Dr Lakshman countered this point by saying, “In an aware society, you cannot ask a question such as why you shouldn't do something. Instead, you have to ask what is the use of doing something. If there is a benefit you should do, if not you shouldn't. The issues of doing this steam inhalation exercise includes things ranging from waste of water and energy, scalding of skin and nasal tissue to situations where patients who actually have to seek medical help get distracted from what they actually have to do.”


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