How to Decongest Using a Bowl of Hot Water

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Decongesting methods, such as inhaling steam, helps relieve clogged sinuses.
Decongesting methods, such as inhaling steam, helps relieve clogged sinuses. (Image: Thinkstock/Comstock/Getty Images)

Congestion, whether seasonal, situational or due to a medical condition can cause you to feel under the weather. Clearing a stuffy head, blocked sinuses or even just simple upper respiratory congestion due to colds, allergies and nasal symptoms is something done through medication and home remedies. One easy way to begin relieving congestion is through inhaling vapors from a bowl of hot water. The steam created by hot water helps reduce swelling, thus allowing mucus membranes to loosen up and allow congestion to begin subsiding.

Things You'll Need

  • Glass bowl
  • Water
  • Saucepan or pot
  • Towels
  • Eucalyptus, orange or mint oil or fresh mint leaves
  • Comfortable chair
  • Tissues

Heat water by microwaving in a glass bowl or in a saucepan on the stove. Make sure the water reaches a rolling boil to ensure all impurities are removed from the water.

Pour the hot water into a glass bowl and place it on a flat, level surface such as a kitchen or dining room table. Place a towel underneath the bowl to protect the furniture.

Place two to four drops of eucalyptus, orange or mint oil into the hot water and stir to distribute. Test the temperature of the steam by pacing the palm of your hand over top of the bowl to determine if the steam is too hot. If the steam feels too hot on your palm, it will be too hot for inhaling. Wait for the water to cool down to a point where you can comfortably hold your hand above the bowl, without touching the water.

Sit down in a chair and hold your head directly over the bowl of steaming water. Drape a bath towel over your head to form a tent which keeps the steam inside the towel. The steam rises from the bowl and circulates under the towel, allowing you to continually inhale the steam.

Breathe deeply through both your nose and mouth to inhale the steam. Remove your head from under the towel when you need to blow your nose or cough out mucus as it is loosened by the steam. Continue breathing in the steam until the water has cooled to the point where no more steam is being generated.

Tips & Warnings

  • Try using plain water without adding essential oils if you have a sensitivity to scents.
  • In between using a bowl for deep inhalation sessions, take hot showers to keep mucus loosened.
  • Use the hot water steaming method for congestion two to four times per day as needed.
  • Do not attempt to stay under the towel if you are having difficulty breathing or the steam is too hot and causes you discomfort. Seek medical attention for respiratory conditions which are causing you difficulties in breathing normally.

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