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What is the importance of steam in controlling respiratory problems? How does it work?

importance of steam in controlling respiratory problems

Steam therapy is perhaps one of the most popular ways in which people have been getting relief from their respiratory ailments. It is a common home remedy which helps to open the nasal passage to get relief from the symptoms of cold and other infections. Several people appreciate it since it is the easiest way to soothe the nasal passage and the sinuses.

Steam therapy, in simpler words, can be understood as inhalation of water vapour. It is entirely natural and doesn’t cost a dime, which means that its accessibility is 100%. You can either buy a steamer or just heat a pan of water, and you’ll be good to go!

Steam helps to moisturize dry and irritated nasal passages, which makes the individual breathe easily. It also alleviates soreness and inflammation in the throat region. Steam is responsible for liquefying the mucus secretions, which helps the individual quickly expel them by coughing or blowing the nose. Additionally, steam has also been associated with dilating the blood vessels to encourage better blood flow and ensure overall circulation.

Usually, when the air passes through the nasal cavity, it is warmed and humidified by the action of moist mucus membranes. Now if the individual contracts a cold, the breathing takes place through the mouth. This results in the movement of cold and dry air since mucus membranes are not present here. It may further aggravate the issue by thickening the mucus. In such a situation, steam helps to humidify and warm the air breathed and brings relief to the individual.

Here are some other physiological benefits of inhaling steam:

  1. It helps to decrease inflammation and congestion of the mucus membrane of the upper respiratory system.
  2. It helps to lose in the secretions and promotes the discharge of mucus from the throat.
  3. It helps in relaxing muscles.
  4. It prevents the mucus membranes from drying.
  5. It also relieves irritated throat by moistening the air.         

If compared to nasal irrigation, steam inhalation still proves to be better. This is because moist air has the capability to reach till the upper respiratory tract to precipitate in the form of a fine layer of warm water molecules which helps to thin out the mucus and relieve inflammation. On the other hand, the saline in the process of nasal irrigation only cleans the maxillary sinuses, and there’s no clinical evidence if it reaches to the other sinuses or not. Given the benefits of steam, one should never forget that they must be vigilant while inhaling it, at all times. If an individual is not careful, then they can get severe burns which may also end up becoming a medical emergency!

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