Faced with a child with a bad cough or some congestive condition, how many mums have got a bowl of hot water and made their sickly offspring breathe in the steam? And how many accident and emergency units have then had to treat the child who has sustained serious scalds?
Although it's a very common therapy, it's also a very dangerous one, as the case notes from the burns unit of one Dublin hospital can testify.
They had to treat seven serious cases of scalding following steam inhalation over a six-month period in 2002. Six children had facial burns after direct contact with the water or hot water, and two children had burns caused by the bowl tipping over onto their chest or lap.
Four of these children will have permanent scarring.
One mother said her family doctor had recommended the treatment. So what's a safer approach? Sit in the bathroom with a very hot shower running, put your child on your lap, and read him a story.
(Source: British Medical Journal, 2004; 328: 757).