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  • Writer's pictureDr. Koralla Raja Meghanadh

Steam Inhalation: Are You Doing It Right?

Steam inhalation has proven to be a reliable remedy for respiratory issues for generations. It can be particularly beneficial in providing relief and expediting the healing process for conditions such as sinusitis and common cold-related nasal infections.


It even helps clear blocked ears during or after a cold attack.

Conditions Relieved by Steam Inhalation

Steam inhalation proves beneficial in relieving a range of respiratory conditions. It is particularly effective for:

  1. Sinusitis: Steam helps in thinning mucus, making it easier to drain from the sinuses and relieving sinus congestion.

  2. Common Cold: Steam inhalation can relieve symptoms of the common cold and flu, such as congestion, runny nose, and sore throat. Additionally, steam inhalations prevent potential complications such as sinusitis and ear infections that may arise from cold or nasal infections.

  3. Clearing Ear Blockage: If you experience ear blockage, especially during or after a cold, steam inhalation can provide relief. This simple practice helps prevent middle ear infections.


The Right Duration: 5 Minutes

Steam inhalation for 5 minutes is sufficient as it thins up the mucus lining that runs through the nose, sinuses, nasopharynx, and auditory tube.


Yet, it’s crucial not to surpass this time limit. Extended exposure can elevate the temperature of the mucus layer excessively, potentially causing irritation and introducing a new set of issues. Consistency with the recommended duration ensures the desired benefits without the risk of unintended consequences.


3 Times a Day

It is vital to do steam inhalation three times a day for sinusitis, cold, and ear blockage. Here is why.



By inhaling steam three times a day for sinusitis, you allow the fluids stagnated in the sinuses to flow out three times daily. This brings down the infection, which further reduces the swelling. This, in turn, allows more fluids to drain. Repeating this process three times a day can help relieve sinusitis and avoid its complications.



Steam inhalation during a cold or nasal infection helps recover and avoid complications. Steam inhalation thins up the secretions in the nasal cavity, due to which they easily flow out, giving us instant relief. Along with giving instant relief, steam inhalation also reduces the viral load of the infection. So, steam inhalation three times daily will prevent the disease’s progress and make us feel better.


Ear Blockage

Ear blockage can be triggered mainly due to multiple causes. One of the primary ones is cold, followed by chronic sinusitis. Ear blockage occurs if fluids enter the eustachian tube through the nasopharynx (back part of the nose). It can also occur if the mucus lining is swollen. As mentioned earlier, the mucus lining runs through the nasal cavity, and the eustachian or auditory tube is swollen. Steam inhalations help to thin the mucus layer, too.


So, inhaling steam thrice a day can fix ear blockage and prevent the occurrence of or progress into the middle ear infection, i.e., Otitis Media. Doctors usually advise steam inhalations three times daily, along with Otrivin nose drops for ear blockages. They advise a visit or revisit if the blockage doesn’t clear in 2 days.

Breathe, Don’t Sweat

When using steam inhalation, you do not need to cover yourself with a blanket or induce sweating. The primary goal is to breathe in the steam and thin the mucous lining that runs through the nose, sinuses, throat, lungs, nasopharynx(back part of the nose), and eustachian tube.


A slight rise in the temperature of the mucous lining will give you relief. Still, a higher rise can damage cilia in the nose and sinuses. The primary purpose of steaming is to add moisture to the air you breathe and make mucus thinner rather than raising its temperature.

Caution: No Blankets, No Excess

Steam Inhalation: Sinusitis, common cold and ear blockage

It’s crucial to emphasize avoiding using blankets during steam inhalation. Using blankets can raise the temperature higher than what we need. As mentioned earlier, a slight increase in temperature may provide a soothing effect. Still, a higher rise could harm the cilia – the hair-like structures in the respiratory tract responsible for moving mucus.

Medication-Free Steam

Contrary to popular belief, there is generally no need to add medication or any other substance to the water used for steam inhalation. Steam inhalation creates a moist environment in your respiratory system, which can help thin mucus and facilitate easier drainage of fluids. Adding medication to the water might offer only a temporary and unnecessary soothing effect, as the steam alone is often sufficient. Sometimes, these additions can lead to irritation, too.


The Purpose: Humidify, Not Heat

In conclusion, while steam inhalation is a simple and effective home remedy for respiratory issues, following the recommended guidelines is essential. Stick to a 5-minute duration three times a day, avoid using blankets, and resist the temptation to add unnecessary medications to the water. By doing steam inhalation correctly, you can harness its benefits for respiratory relief without any adverse effects on your breathing passages.

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