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Steam inhalers are devices that reportedly provide relief from respiratory conditions such as the common cold. However, there is currently no evidence to suggest they are effective in reducing nasal congestion.

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Please note that the writer of this article has not tried these products. All information presented is purely research-based.

Steam inhalers use water vapor, which people inhale to help loosen the mucus in the nasal passages, lungs, and throat.

Many companies claim their steam inhalers can help reduce symptoms of respiratory conditions, including:

However, there is currently no scientific evidence suggesting steam inhalation is effective in reducing nasal congestion symptoms. Therefore, people should not use steam inhalers instead of medication or treatments that a doctor recommends or prescribes.

Anecdotally, steam inhalers may help reduce symptoms of the following:

However, scientific evidence states that steam inhalation may not help with these symptoms. A 2016 study investigating the benefits of steam inhalation and nasal irrigation found that this practice was ineffective in reducing symptoms of nasal congestion. However, some of the study participants reported that it helped reduce the symptoms of headaches.

A 2017 systematic review found that it is uncertain whether heated water vapor eased symptoms of the common cold effectively. The researchers suggested there is no evidence of any harm or benefits when using heated water vapor, and more research is necessary.

Additionally, research has found that individuals who inhale steam may be at risk of injury. The authors found that over a 2-year period in one hospital, 19 people in the United Kingdom required hospital treatment due to scalding injuries from steam inhalation.

Therefore, if a person uses a steam inhaler, they should follow all manufacturer instructions to reduce the risk of injury. People should also make sure that any children who use a steam inhaler do so under supervision and seek medical advice if an individual sustains an injury from using these machines.

People may wish to consider the following factors when purchasing a steam inhaler:

  • Size: Steam inhalers come in various sizes. Individuals who intend to use them while traveling may wish to purchase a device that is lightweight and small.
  • Ease of use: A person should ensure that the device’s instructions are easy to follow. Some brands may also offer manuals in different languages.
  • Temperature control: People may wish to purchase a device that has an adjustable temperature control feature to reduce the risk of scalds and burns.

Below are some steam inhalers available to purchase online.

Vicks Personal Steam Inhaler V1200

Best for traveling

The Vicks Personal Steam Inhaler V1200 comes with a face mask, which Vicks claims can provide temporary symptomatic relief for cough, congestion, and allergies within 15 minutes.

The product works by gently boiling water. People can use the adjustable steam control to mix the hot water vapor with cooler air.

Additionally, a person can use the Vicks scent pads to release a menthol scent.

This product weighs 1.1 pounds (lb) and has dimensions of 9.37 x 17.4 x 9.37 inches (in).

Pros and cons

Some advantages of this product include:

  • treatments of up to 15 minutes
  • variable steam control
  • compact design

However, reviewers have identified some possible drawbacks. One reviewer stated that they could not feel any of the steam, while others said the product did not relieve any nasal congestion symptoms.

At the time of publishing, the Vicks Personal Steam Inhaler V1200 had a list price of around $34.

MABIS Facial Steamer

Best for aromatherapy

This steam inhaler features an in-built face mask, which the company claims can help relieve respiratory symptoms of colds, sore throat, and flu.

The MABIS Facial Steamer also has an adjustable steam control function. Additionally, people can use essential oils to release scents while using the device.

This device weighs 1 lb and has dimensions of 4 x 9 x 10 in.

Pros and cons

Some advantages of this product include:

  • a filter-free design
  • suitability for adults and children
  • English and Spanish instruction manuals

However, reviewers have identified some disadvantages, including:

  • no steam temperature control
  • the power light may not work
  • the device may have a strong odor

At the time of publishing, the MABIS Facial Inhaler had a list price of around $30.

Gurin Personal Steam Inhaler Vaporizer

Best for an easy-to-use device

This steam inhaler features a face mask to direct the steam into the nasal passages. Gurin claims this steam inhaler is suitable for adults and children with sinus and cold symptoms.

The Gurin Personal Steam Inhaler Vaporizer also has an adjustable steam control and a built-in aromatherapy diffuser.

Additionally, the company offers a 1-year manufacturer’s guarantee.

This product weighs 1.2 lb and has dimensions of 5 x 3 x 9.13 in.

Pros and cons

This product has the following advantages:

  • a soft and flexible face mask
  • indicator lights
  • a drain tank and extension tube

Additionally, reviewers state the steam inhaler is easy to use.

However, other customers say that the steam is too hot for children to use safely and that the product did not ease their nasal congestion.

At the time of publishing, the Gurin Personal Steam Inhaler Vaporizer had a list price of around $30.

MyPurMist Classic Handheld Personal Vaporizer and Humidifier

Best for a self-cleaning device

This steam inhaler features a face mask that can reportedly relieve sinus congestion, colds, dry throat, and allergies.

The company states that the plug-in version of this product is self-cleaning. People need to use distilled water with this device.

Additionally, individuals can regulate the temperature of the steam between 104–115°F (40–46.1°C).

This device weighs 2.55 lb and has dimensions of 13.75 x 10.6 x 3.4 in.

Pros and cons

Some advantages of this device include:

  • a self-cleaning design
  • temperature control function
  • a removable face mask

However, some customer reviews stated that the product stopped working after a few uses. Others said the face mask was too big to fit on some people’s faces.

At the time of publishing, the MyPurMist Classic Handheld Personal Vaporizer and Humidifier had a list price of around $150.

Veridian Steam Inhaler

Best for faster relief

This steam inhaler features a latex-free design, a measuring cup, and a large and small face mask. The company claims it can provide symptomatic relief in up to 9 minutes.

People can change the extension tube height and select different additional treatments, such as saline therapy or aromatherapy. A person can also adjust the particle steam size.

This product weighs 1 lb and 5 ounces (oz) and features dimensions of 8.13 x 3.75 x 10 in.

Pros and cons

Some advantages of this product include:

  • compatibility with tap and distilled water
  • an instruction manual in English and Spanish
  • provides hot steam in 60 seconds
  • 90-day return policy

However, some reviewers state reported receiving a defective product. Others said the fan unit became very hot after a few uses.

At the time of publishing, the Veridian Steam Inhaler costs $34.99.

AVYA Portable Steam Inhaler

Best for saline therapy

AVYA claims this portable steam inhaler hydrates and moisturizes air passages to ease nasal and throat discomfort.

This device uses sterile saline instead of water, which reportedly provides the same benefits as nasal irrigation. The company includes a starter saline kit with each purchase.

This product weighs 7.76 oz, has dimensions of 7.8 x 5.6 x 5.3 in, and uses rechargeable batteries.

Pros and cons

Some advantages of this product include:

  • a 1-year warranty
  • suitability for children and adults
  • a portable design

However, customer reviews indicate the following drawbacks:

  • it may be difficult to remove batteries
  • solution container lid may become defective
  • may stop working while charging

At the time of publishing, the AVYA Portable Steam Inhaler had a list price of around $160.

Crane Corded Personal Steam Inhaler

Best humidifier

This corded steam inhaler features a soft face mask that reportedly provides people with a bacteria-free warm mist.

The device is compatible with vapor pads for scents, has a quiet operation, and features an automatic shut-off feature.

Additionally, people can use the steam inhaler as a humidifier.

The device weighs 1.3 lb and has dimensions of 4.7 x 4.7 x 9.2 in.

Pros and cons

Some advantages of this product include its filterless design and adjustable steam control.

However, reviews reported that the steam inhaler can heat up too quickly. Additionally, some customers said the device broke after several uses.

At the time of publishing, the Crane Corded Personal Steam Inhaler had a list price of around $55.

Manufacturers will provide manuals with instructions on how to use their steam inhalers.

However, the following steps are some generic instructions that may help people when using these devices:

  1. Set up the machine by inserting batteries or plugging it into a power outlet.
  2. Pour in water and add vaporizer pads or essential oils, if required.
  3. Turn the steam inhaler on and allow it to heat.
  4. Inhale the steam for up to 15 minutes.

Below are some frequently asked questions about steam inhalers.

Is a steam inhaler safe to use?

Research suggests that steam inhalers do not provide health benefits or harm to users.

However, people who use steam inhalation are at risk of scalding injuries if they come into contact with the hot water in the device.

With this in mind, individuals should use steam inhalers with care and supervise children when using the devices.

If a person sustains a scald or burn injury, they should do the following:

  • immediately step away from the source of the burn
  • cover the burn with cool or lukewarm running water for 20 minutes
  • remove any clothing or jewelry near the burn unless stuck to the skin
  • ensure the person with a burn is warm
  • cover the burn with plastic food wrap
  • use painkillers, such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen, for the pain
  • reduce swelling by sitting upright

Learn more about home remedies for burns.

Some burns require immediate attention. The United Kingdom National Health Service (NHS) recommends seeking emergency medical attention for the following:

  • all chemical and electrical burns
  • burns bigger than the person’s hand
  • deep burns
  • burns of any size that cause white or charred skin
  • burned skin that blisters

Can inhaling steam treat chronic sinusitis?

Research states that steam inhalation does not significantly improve a person’s chronic sinusitis symptoms.

However, some participants reported experiencing fewer headaches after inhaling steam.

Learn more about sinus home remedies.

Can steam inhalers help with asthma?

While there is no scientific evidence that steam inhalers can help asthma symptoms, some people may find that steam inhalation reduces wheezing.

However, steam inhalation may also trigger asthma. Therefore, individuals should stop using any steam inhalers immediately if they experience wheezing after using these devices.

Steam inhalers are devices that may relieve nasal congestion, dry throat, and cough. However, there is currently no scientific evidence that they provide any benefit.

These machines can also cause scalding injuries. Therefore, people should use steam inhalers with caution and seek medical attention if they sustain a scald or burn injury.