Steam inhalation is commonly used to relieve the symptoms of respiratory infections, but there is no evidence to support any benefit and it can cause accidental scalds in children.
Researchers from Morriston Hospital in Swansea, Wales, studied the characteristics of steam inhalation injuries in 16 children who attended their burns centre over a five-year period.
Most injuries were to the thighs and groin area and ten patients required hospital admission. Patients were usually treated with dressings, but one patient required a skin graft. The total cost of treatment for all patients was £37,133. Of 21 GPs surveyed as part of the study, 17 recommended steam inhalation.
In the British Journal of General Practice (online, 1 March 2016)
, the researchers say primary care professionals should stop recommending steam inhalation to parents and instead inform them of the risks and lack of efficacy.