Inhaling Steam Does Nothing To Ease Sinus Woes, Says Study

It’s a home-treatment as old as the malady of sinus problems — inhaling steam to help with congestion. Passed down for many generations, it’s probably been tried by most people at least once when they feel “stuffy.” The bad news is that science shows it does not help at all, and can actually cause injury to those who attempt it, according to The Scotsman.

The study, published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, revealed that advice to use nasal irrigation, which is when the nasal cavity is washed with saline or sterile water to flush out mucus, did help relieve symptoms, but had less impact on relieving congestion than prior studies have shown. The push to study the issue of sinus trouble has come about because of antibiotic resistance and the fact that antibiotics do not always help sinus infections, according to Professor Paul Little at the University of Southhampton.

“The threat of global antibiotics resistance is very real and we need to find alternative ways of educating and treating people who do not need to have antibiotics. We have found that even a very brief intervention of a video showing patients how to use saline nasal irrigation can improve symptoms, help people feel they do not need to see the doctor to manage the problem and reduce the amount of over the counter medication they get. We found potentially important changes in other outcomes – particularly reduced headaches, reduced use of over the counter medication and reduced medicalization, for example the belief in the need to see the doctor in future episodes. The evidence of reduced medicalization is important in the longer term given most consultations result in an antibiotic prescription and the attendant dangers of antibiotic resistance.”