Steam Inhalation: 5 Respiratory Health Benefits

When we experience cold and cough symptoms, our mothers often recommend steam inhalation. Steam inhalation is an ancient remedy that promotes respiratory well-being and relieves many respiratory problems. This therapeutic method involves inhaling steam to relieve nasal congestion and unblock the airways. It is particularly useful for people suffering from colds, allergies or sinusitis. Additionally, steam inhalation can relieve a sore throat. Read on to learn more about the benefits of steam inhalation.

Health Shots contacted Dr Ravi Shekhar Jha, Director and CEO of Pulmonology at Fortis Escorts Hospital, Faridabad, to find out how steam inhalation can improve respiratory health.

Benefits of steam inhalation

Here are 5 respiratory health benefits of steam inhalation:

1. Eliminate traffic jams

One of the most immediate and visible benefits of steam inhalation is its ability to clear nasal and chest congestion. When you inhale steam, the warm, moist air helps clear mucus and phlegm from the airways. This can be especially beneficial when you have a cold, sinusitis, or allergies, as it makes breathing easier and relieves that stuffy feeling. Steam inhalation can also be effective in reducing congestion caused by respiratory infections.

Steaming can provide some relief from congestion. Image provided by: Shutterstock

2. Relieves sinusitis

Sinusitis, an inflammation of the sinus cavities, can cause symptoms such as facial pain, pressure, and difficulty breathing through your nose. Steam inhalation is a great way to alleviate these symptoms. Moist steam helps soothe irritated sinus tissues and can help drain mucus, reducing inflammation and pressure. Adding a few drops of essential oils, such as eucalyptus or peppermint, to warm water can enhance the therapeutic effects by providing additional relief and helping to decongest the sinuses.

3. Soothes sore throats

Steam inhalation can be a soothing remedy for sore throats. When you inhale the hot steam, it moistens and soothes the throat, helping to relieve discomfort and irritation. Adding a pinch of salt to the hot water used for steam inhalation can also provide additional relief for a sore throat. Salt helps reduce inflammation and can have a soothing effect on irritated throat tissue.

Sore throat
Steaming can improve the condition of your throat. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

4. Promotes Lung Health

Steam inhalation is beneficial not only for the upper respiratory tract but also for the lungs. Inhaling warm, moist air can help relax the airways and bronchi, making breathing easier, especially for people with asthma or bronchitis. This relaxation of the airways can also reduce the severity of coughing fits and relieve respiratory symptoms.

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5. Improves overall respiratory health

Regular inhalation of steam can contribute to overall respiratory health. It helps maintain moisture in the airways, preventing them from drying out, which can be particularly helpful in dry or arid climates. Proper humidity levels in the respiratory system are essential for efficient mucus production and the effective removal of irritants and foreign particles from the airways. Additionally, steam inhalation can improve blood circulation to respiratory tissues, promoting their health and function.

Tips for Steam Therapy

While steam inhalation offers many benefits for the respiratory system, it is essential to practice it safely to avoid any potential risk or burn. Here are some tips for safely inhaling vapour:

  • Use clean, purified water to prepare the steam.
  • Allow the water to cool slightly before inhaling to avoid burns.
  • Maintain a safe distance from hot water to avoid accidental splashes.
  • Cover your head and container with a towel to trap the steam and create a steam tent for more effective inhalation.
  • Inhale deeply but slowly to avoid inhaling too much vapor at once.
  • Be careful when using essential oils, as some people may be sensitive or allergic to certain oils.
steam inhalation
Steam to improve the health of your lungs. Image: Shutterstock

Can steaming help reduce the impact of air pollution?

Although steam inhalation may provide some comfort and temporary relief, it does not necessarily prevent dust and pollutants from entering your lungs. These particles are often very small and can still reach your lungs despite inhaling steam. So, if you suffer from respiratory illnesses or have concerns about exposure to pollutants, it is important to consult a health professional at the right time to get the right advice.

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