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Breathing steam from boiling water, salt and orange peel won’t prevent virus

March 24, 2020 GMT

CLAIM: Breathing the steam from a mixture of boiling water, salt and orange peel will prevent or cure the new coronavirus. 

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. Steam may help sooth symptoms of the virus, but it will not prevent or cure it. 

THE FACTS: In photo and video posts circulating widely on Facebook and Twitter, people can be seen standing over a pot of boiling water filled with the mixture as they breathe in the steam. In some cases, other items have been added, from chopped onion to aromatic oils. Variations of the videos received thousands of views on social media. 

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“Steam Sea Salt and Orange peelings. Inhale the steam for 15 minutes. It Suppose to Prevent Corona Virus from entering the body. Seen it on social media and yes I’m doing it,“ said one Facebook post featuring a picture of the mixture.

Inhaling steam can provide relief from the symptoms of the virus such as soothing the mucus membranes of the nose or the back of the throat, experts say, but it will not kill the virus. 

“Those modalities can be helpful, but I don’t think they should be looked at as cures or as treating the underlying virus,” said Dr. Albert Rizzo, chief medical officer for the American Lung Association. 

Posts online suggested that heat from the steam would also kill the virus, which experts have warned against, especially if a person chooses to stand over a pot of boiling water on the stove.

Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University, cautioned against using heat from steam to kill the virus. 

“A little warm moisture is not going to hurt these viruses,” he said. “People need to be very, very careful about this. You can have all kinds of misadventures if you are leaning over a pot of boiling water.”

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This is part of The Associated Press’ ongoing effort to fact-check misinformation that is shared widely online, including work with Facebook to identify and reduce the circulation of false stories on the platform.

Here’s more information on Facebook’s fact-checking program: https://www.facebook.com/help/1952307158131536