Steam Inhalation is one of the oldest known remedies for treating common colds and upper respiratory tract infections. The hot vapors open up your nasal passages and enable you breathe free again. Steam therapy has particularly gained attention during the COVID-19 pandemic times, as it is known to ease the symptoms of the infection and make the person feel better for a while. *
In this article, we shall learn a little more about steam inhalation, along with the best practices to follow for safe and effective experiences.
* NOTE: Steam Inhalation is not proven to treat COVID-19 infection or kill any bacteria or virus in the body. It works by clearing nasal blocks and supporting in chest decongestion.
What is Steam Inhalation or Steam Therapy?
Steam inhalation is a method of inhaling hot and moist vapors released from hot water. Once the water vapour enters the nasal tract, it starts clearing up the passages by dissolving the mucus, reducing inflammation and promoting better blood circulation in the respiratory tract.
Steam Inhalation can be done using a simple technique like hot water in a bowl, a hot towel or a steam inhalation machine.
What are the Benefits of Steam Inhalation?
Whether you are suffering from a stuffy nose or an itchy throat, a round of steam inhalation can offer quick relief from the annoying symptoms. The warm and moist vapors prevent your tract from getting dried up and at the same time, loosens thick mucus. This helps in draining out the sticky substance from your nasal passage to reduce the chances of infections and enable you to breathe better.
When To Try Steam Inhalation?
Steam inhalation is helpful for those suffering from:
- Common Cold
- Respiratory allergies
- Chest Congestion
Advantages of Steam Inhalation:
Inhaling steam vapours may offer temporary relief from:
- Nasal Congestion
- Throat Pain and Irritation
- Breathing difficulties due to stuffiness in nose
- Dry nasal passages
- Dry or Wet Cough
- Facial Pains experienced during Sinusitis
How to Do Steam Inhalation at Home?
Steam inhalation can be done very easily at home using methods like – steam or sauna room, hot towel, steam machine or hot water in kettle or bowl.
Here, we have explained three methods of using a steam therapy
1. Hot Water and Bowl:
Things You Need:
- A Large Bowl, preferably with a handle
- A Towel or wrap to cover your head
Method to Prepare and Use:
- Boil some water in a bowl using a stove or microwave
- Now, carefully place the bowl on a table
- Cover your head with a towel to prevent the steam from escaping
- Now place your face atleast 10 inches away from the bowl
- Start inhaling the vapours and close your eyes while doing it
- Perform deep inhalation with your nose and mouth for 2-3 minutes
Once done, remove the towel and wipe your face with a tissue or a clean cloth.
2. Vaporizer or Electric Steam Inhaler:
If you have access to an electric steam inhaler, just follow the below steps before using it:
- Clean the machine and use fresh water before every use
- Do not use leftover water from previous day
- Do not use tap water or hard water as it can damage the system. Soft and filtered water is always recommended.
- If you are using a mask, ensure that it is clean and dry before every use.
3. Turmeric or Vicks Steam Inhalation:
To maximise the effectiveness of steam vapours, you can add a small amount of decongestant like Vicks, turmeric powder or essential oils like Eucalyptus in the water. The active compounds in these ingredients offer faster relief from the symptoms.
- Vicks/ Turmeric/ Eucalyptus Oil
- Hot water
Method to prepare and Use:
- Boil water and transfer it to a large bowl
- Add a drop of vicks or turmeric powder or eucalyptus oil
- Now place a towel on your head
- Perform deep inhalation for 2-3 minutes
NOTE: If you are using an electric machine, it is not recommended to add these ingredients directly to water. Instead, you can add them to a cotton ball and place it on the opening vent of the steam.
Also SEE: Never use steam for more than 5-8 minutes at a time. Try to break it into two to three sessions per day, each not lasting for more than 2-3 minutes.
Side Effects of Steam Inhalation:
If you are obessed with steam inhalation and using this for than the recommended periods, then you need to know this! Too much of steam inhalation can be bad for you and even dangerous. Let us look into the negatives of steam inhalation (when overdone or not used in the right manner):
- Risk of Burns: Remember your science lessons in which you read that steam is hotter than boiling water? So, prolonged exposure to steam vapours or bringing it too close to the skin can cause severe burns. (Also, steam inhalation is not recommended for young children as their skin is extremely sensitive to the heat release from vapours.)
- Damage to Mucus Membranes: The mucus lining inside our nose and throat is very delicate and can easily get damaged due to excess heat.
- Infections: Repeatedly using the same water for steam can increase the risk of bacterial infections in the body.
While steam inhalation can offer quick relief from cold and congestion, be aware that it’s role in treating or fighting a disease is negligible. Steam therapy must be used only to support a medical treatment for respiratory infections and not as a cure itself. Also, follow the precautions suggested in the article and stay safe!