In this photo taken on March 12, 2020, nurses carry food during a shift-change for medical workers dealing with COVID-19 novel coronavirus cases at the Keimyung University hospital in Daegu. (AFP / Ed Jones)

Inhaling saltwater droplets could be harmful and does not cure Covid-19, health experts warn

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Multiple social media posts circulating in South Korea claim that inhaling saltwater droplets produced by a humidifier can cure Covid-19. The claim is false: health experts said the advice was “baseless” and could be harmful.

The claim was shared here on Facebook on May 4, 2021.

Screenshot of the misleading Facebook post, taken on May 21, 2021.

“Fill up a humidifier with seawater and inhale the mineral mist for ten minutes. It will cure Covid-19 instantly. You can use saltwater instead,” the lengthy Korean-language text reads in part. 

“Electromagnetic waves released by humidifiers will hit the minerals in the seawater to create large numbers of electrons and positrons that destroy the protein structure of Covid-19 virus with ‘electric torture’.”

The same claim has been shared on Facebook here and here, and on Naver Blog here.

The claim is false, health experts told AFP.

'Risky treatment'

Eom Joong-sik, an infectious diseases professor at  South Korea's Gachon University told AFP the “electronic torture” method described in the posts was unlikely to be effective to kill the virus.

“Even if it could kill the virus, it would be risky as it would also damage other cells in our body,” he said.

“[Inhaling saltwater to treat Covid-19] is not reported in the field of infectious disease, and there is no experimental or clinical evidence to prove that it could be effective".

Choi Seung-ho, a spokesman at the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) told AFP the claim in the misleading social media posts was "baseless".

“We saw a similar rumour circulating last year that gargling with salt water can cure Covid-19, but it was not true,” he said. 

As of May 25, 2021, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not recommend any salt-related treatment to treat Covid-19.

“People have been seriously harmed and even died after taking products not approved for Covid-19, even products approved or prescribed for other uses,” it notes. 

'Not recommended'

Eom from Gachon University warned that using seawater for humidifiers could be harmful.

“Seawater can be composed of contaminated and harmful components that could damage the human body," he said. "Thus, it is not recommended to inhale mist from a humidifier filled with seawater".

A study led by Seoul National University researchers concluded that using undistilled water in humidifiers “may not be desirable from the risk management point of view.”

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends using distilled water for ultrasonic humidifiers.