ZocdocAnswersCan inhaling steam help soothe a cough?

Question

Can inhaling steam help soothe a cough?

My boyfriend likes to go to the steamroom at his college gym whenever he has a cold, because he thinks that breathing the steam can help soothe and heal his cough. Is there any truth to this? I always had the understanding that drying out the infection that causes a wet, phlegmy cough was the only way to help speed up the healing process.

Answer

The common cold is a type of upper respiratory infection caused by one of several viruses. The symptoms include nasal congestion, runny nose, and cough. The common cold does not require treatment because it gets better on its own within a week or so. However, the symptoms can be quite distressing and many home remedies and over the counter medicines for the symptoms are available. One very common home remedy is steam inhalation. Believe it or not, this actually works, at least as well as many over the counter remedies, for relieving nasal congestion. The steam soothes the passages inside the nose, opening them up and allowing them to drain. Other common home remedies that have benefit including taking lots of liquids (the "chicken soup" approach) and drinking warm beverages ("honey and lemon") which soothes irritation of the throat. As always, the management of any acute illness, including a cold, requires an actual physical examination by a physician. An severe symptoms should be discussed promptly with a primary care doctor.

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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