Does Steam Help Asthma? How To Use Steam Therapy To Soothe Your Breath

Do you experience asthma symptoms like wheezing, clogged sinus, shortness of breath, tightening in the chest, and dry cough? Steam inhalation¹ may be an effective quick-fix solution for alleviating pain and pressure. 

Although most attention is focused on drugs used to control asthma, steam therapy is also increasingly getting recognized as an effective way of loosening up congestion in your airways and making it easier to breathe. 

So, whenever you experience asthma symptoms and need to clear your airways, you can take a hot, steamy shower at home, use a humidifier, or spend time in a steam room.

Have you considered clinical trials for Asthma?

We make it easy for you to participate in a clinical trial for Asthma, and get access to the latest treatments not yet widely available - and be a part of finding a cure.

How steam alleviates asthma

Asthma makes you more susceptible to inflammation due to your delicate airways. Cold air can dry up the airways, tighten the muscles around them, and limit their ability to release inhaled particles. 

At this time, blood vessels around the nasal cavity usually swell, causing a feeling of irritation. The swelling makes the bronchial tubes that carry air to your lungs collapse and leave a small passage for breath, making it difficult to breathe and causing irritation. 

More than that, you may also experience pain and pressure behind and between the eyes and above the nose.

Steam may not be an asthma treatment, but it can significantly soothe your breathing problems and improve your condition. 

It eases nasal congestion

One main symptom of asthma is having a stuffy nose due to nasal and chest congestion. If you are asthmatic and often find yourself wheezing due to the buildup of mucus and phlegm in your airways, breathing in hot water mist may help break up that mucus and make it drain more easily. 

Consequently, the steam may clear any stubborn mucus in your windpipe, relieve respiratory discomfort, and make it easier for you to breathe.

It provides moisture to the airways

Does dry air often trigger your asthma? Our respiratory tract is always lined with a thin layer of mucus. Dry air makes the mucus evaporate quickly, leaving your airways dry and susceptible to an asthma attack. 

Steam is an expectorant that prevents the mucus membrane from drying. The hot mist provides moisture that initiates mucus production from the lungs and throat glands. 

It reduces stress

Stress and anxiety are common asthma triggers. You are likely to react to asthma triggers when you are under stress. With or without asthma, stress is an inevitable part of our daily lives.

Yet, according to studies,² the heat of a steam room triggers the release of hormones, specifically endorphins. These feel-good hormones will help reduce stress. 

On top of that, being in a steam room can also cut the cortisol level, a hormone that is secreted in response to stress. A drop in cortisol production leaves you feeling relaxed, in control, and rejuvenated. 

How to do simple steam therapy at home

If you have a stuffy nose or feel like you can’t catch your breath, you can easily perform a simple steam therapy from the warmth of your home in a few simple steps. 

The easiest way to carry out steam therapy would be to sit in a steam room or hot shower. However, the procedure below is known to be more straightforward and more effective. 

  1. Fill 3/4 of your bowl with boiling water.

  2. Position your bowl on a table where you can comfortably sit and lean over it.

  3. Add 2 to 4 drops of essential oil to boost the expectoration effect.

  4. Bend over the bowl and cover your head with a towel, forming a tent-like closure that ensures the steam is completely locked inside.

  5. Close your eyes and inhale the steam slowly and deeply for 20 minutes using your nose and mouth. 

When you do this, make sure you have tissues or handkerchiefs close at hand in case you release a lot of mucus.

Be careful not to knock over the bowl of steaming water nor allow contact with your eyes due to the risk of getting burned. Also, steam inhalation is discouraged for children due to the risk of burns.

If you do not mind spending a bit, consider investing in an electric steam inhaler, vaporizer, or steam inhalation system. These handheld devices use electric power to heat the steam before releasing moisture into the air or directly to your lungs through the mouth. 

Factors to consider 

An important thing to remember is that you should never completely rely upon steam inhalation. Always adhere strictly to standard treatment guidelines.³

Steam can also be a trigger for some people and may worsen their asthmatic symptoms. If you’re asthmatic, make sure to know your triggers.

Besides steam, other common triggers include pollutants, tobacco smoke, exercise, stress, pet dander, perfumes, and cleaning products. Check your home thoroughly for these triggers and remove them.

Medical practitioners do not recommend steam therapy for the treatment of bronchial asthma. And if you add any medicine or additives to your steam therapy regimen, make sure they are nebulized. Nebulized substances have been broken down into tiny molecules that you can breathe in.

The lowdown

If you suffer from severe asthma symptoms, you can use steam therapy. It can be effective in easing your nasal congestion and loosen up your airways. Indeed, steam rooms may do much more than make you feel revived and refreshed. 

However, you should always exercise caution when using steam therapy. Extremely hot temperatures combined with excessive humidity may aggravate asthma symptoms. Mild temperatures with moderate humidity are therefore a good option. 

According to a study,⁴ a room temperature of 20 to 22 degrees Celsius is optimum for persons with asthma. Under this temperature, the airways will not be irritated because it is neither too hot nor too cold. 

Steam may not fix your asthmatic and respiratory issues, but it will help alleviate breathing issues, bolster your respiratory maintenance regimen, and relieve asthma symptoms.

Have you considered clinical trials for Asthma?

We make it easy for you to participate in a clinical trial for Asthma, and get access to the latest treatments not yet widely available - and be a part of finding a cure.

Joining community groups and exercise programs for my condition made me feel empowered – but I want to be part of finding a cure.
Peter, 64

Have you considered clinical trials for Asthma?

Do you want to know if there are any Asthma clinical trials you might be eligible for?
Have you taken medication for Asthma?
Have you been diagnosed with Asthma?

Join our email list

Want all the latest clinical trial and HealthMatch news in your inbox? We thought you might! Sign up below.