Clear Congestion with Easy Steam Inhalations

a safe, simple remedy to get the stuff out!
woman performing a steam inhalation over a glass bowl
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When congestion is keeping you down, you need something to get that mucus out. A great home treatment for any age is the tradition of using steam inhalations to fill our lungs with warm, moist air via the nose and throat. They are a great treatment for dealing with common colds and flus, bronchitis, sinusitis, asthma, and even allergies.

How does steam clear congestion?

The longer we are congested, the more uncomfortable and sickly we feel from the accumulating mucus. Steam inhalations, when performed daily, prevent mucus membranes from drying out in the first place and the more sticky the mucus is, the harder it is for us to get it out. Breathing in the warm, humid air moistens our dry air passages, loosening the mucus stuck in our lungs and respiratory tract, making it easier to expectorate (or get it out!). By increasing our secretions, our muscles relax, relieving our coughs and allowed more time to rest.

Performing a steam inhalation

You want to start using steam inhalations as soon as you have signs of congestion or cough. The faster you can get the mucous out, the better you will feel.


  • a large bowl
  • a large bathroom towel
  • hot water
  • optional: eucalyptus, thyme and/or peppermint essential oil


It is most effective if you perform this twice in a one-hour period, twice a day.

  1. Boil enough water to fill your bowl ¾ of the way full. While the water is boiling, set up your steam station.
  2. Place the bowl on a table that you can easily sit at and lean over the bowl comfortably. Consider putting a towel down under the bowl. If you want to use essential oils to enhance the expectoration effect, add 2-4 drops to the bottom of the bowl (you do not need much!).
  3. Lean over the filled bowl and cover your head with the large bath towel, creating a tented seal around you, effectively trapping the steam in.
  4. Breathe in through your nose and mouth for 20 minutes. Tip from an experienced steamer: keep tissues near by! You may have a lot of stuff coming out!

Please use caution as the steam can be VERY hot and can burn your face. Test it out, and allow it to cool a bit if too intense.

Steam treatment for small children

This may be too hot or difficult to do with small babies or children. An alternative is to do a steam “room”.

Run your shower as hot as possible and close the door, trapping the steam in your bathroom. If you would like to use essential oils, put 2-5 drops on a face cloth and toss it in the bottom of your shower. Once the room is filled with steam, bring your child in. Sit in there with them for 10 minutes. Allow them to breathe the warm moist air and relax.

Hydrotherapy home treatments are great for when those colds and coughs sneak up on us from behind. Keep the kettle on and be ready to battle the congestion away!