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If you've ever knelt over a bowl of steaming hot water while suffering from a cold, you know that steam inhalation has its benefits. But what if we told you there is a simpler, less awkward way of inhaling steam?
With a steam inhaler, you get the benefits of hovering over a steaming bowl without all the hassle. Plus, the steam is targeted toward the places you need it, which makes it more effective.
You'll find all kinds of steam inhaler makes and models on the market, but not all are created equally. So, if you need a hand choosing the right steam inhaler, you're in the right place!
At BestReviews, our goal is to help you find the perfect products for your needs. We test items in our lab, gather expert opinions, analyze data, and consult existing customers to bring you thorough and honest reviews. Dr. Lauren Tessier consulted us on our product choices and provided helpful insights in the article below.
The product matrix at the top of this page provides information about our top five steam inhaler choices. If you want in-depth information about what to look for in a steam inhaler, please continue reading this shopping guide. We’ll tell you what you need to know!
Here are some of the main reasons people buy steam inhalers for home use.
Steam inhalers can help with chronic respiratory conditions, such as asthma.
Some people use steam inhalers to clear and tighten their pores.
If you have a cold or the flu, a steam inhaler can relieve congestion by loosening up mucus.
Steam inhalation improves circulation, which some people find helpful for headaches and migraines.
When suffering from allergies, the mucus membranes in your nose and throat can become dry and uncomfortable. A steam inhaler can help you rehydrate.
Dr. Lauren Tessier is a licensed Naturopathic Physician, specializing in functional and integrative medicine. She takes great joy in helping motivated patients find their path to health through education and empowerment. Dr. Tessier is also the founder of Life After Mold, a clinic specializing in the treatment of mold and other biotoxin illnesses.
The majority of steam inhalers work the same way.
Cold water is poured into a chamber, and the device is plugged into a power outlet. After a couple of minutes, the water heats to boiling (or near boiling) and produces steam. The steam is then inhaled through a mouthpiece.
Notably, there are a few steam inhalers on today’s market that turn water into vapor without boiling it first. This reduces your chance of an inadvertent steam burn.
Consider getting a face mask for each member of the family – especially during cold and flu season when the risk of transmission is high.
To find the perfect steam inhaler for your needs, consider the following.
Why do you want a steam inhaler? What will you be using it for? Think about the required function of your steam inhaler and choose appropriately.
If you want to use a steam inhaler to relieve congestion from colds and allergies, pick one that's designed specifically for this use.
Don't let children use the type of steam inhaler that uses boiling water, as there is a slight risk of scalding.Only steam inhalers that create vapor from cool water are safe for children to use.
Ideally, you don't want a steam inhaler that's tricky or complicated. After all, if it's an ordeal just to get it set up, you may be less likely to use it.
Pay particular attention to the length of the power cord. If the cord is short, you will either have to situate the unit close to a power outlet or use an extension cord.
People with sjogrens and other conditions leading to dry mucous membranes may appreciate the damp warmth generated by steam inhalers.
If you want to take your steam inhaler with you when traveling, or you don't want it to consume much space in your home, look for a compact model.
Steam inhalers aren't exactly tiny, but some models are smaller than others. If size is important to you, check the manufacturer's specifications before making your final decision.
If your steam inhaler starts to spit out droplets of boiling water, stop using it immediately for your own safety.
Look for steam inhalers with solid construction, as these generally last longer. An inhaler with flimsy parts is more likely to break or sustain damage.
The majority of steam inhalers are made from plastic, which is solid and won't rust. But you do have to be careful about keeping your inhaler clean, as it may have ridges and tucked-away corners that are hard to reach.
The mask part of a steam inhaler may be made from latex, so if you're allergic to latex, be sure to buy a latex-free model.
A solid steam inhaler with quality construction is likely to be durable and long-lasting.
If you want to be able to add essential oils to your steam, be sure to choose a model with aromatherapy capability.
Some steam inhalers can't be used with essential oils but still have options for spicing up your steam. For example, some inhalers come with special "scent packs" that help create fragrant steam.
If you want to use your steam inhaler for aromatherapy, pick a model that can take essential oils. Never inhale an essential oil that you have not sport tested on skin for allergic reactions.
Steam is often released from an inhaler via a mouthpiece. In many models, the amount of steam released is adjustable. You can choose between thick, dense steam or a gentle flow, depending on your preferences and requirements.
The amount of time the steam lasts on one "tank" of water varies by model. During the course of our research, we found models that lasted anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes.
Water should not be left in the reservoir for more than two days. I suggest draining between each use, no matter the device.
If you want a fairly basic steam inhaler for occasional use that produces steam by boiling water, you’ll need to shell out around $30 to get a good model.
However, if you're going to be using your steam inhaler a lot, we recommend a more sophisticated model that converts cool or lukewarm water straight into vapor. This type of steam inhaler retails from $150 to $200.
Q. Are steam inhalers safe to use?
A. Steam inhalers are safe to use on the whole, but there is one major concern. If you use the type of steam inhaler that generates steam by boiling water, there is a slight risk of burning or scalding. The steam itself is very hot, and some models occasionally spit out a small amount of boiling water. As such, we wouldn't recommend that kids use these types of steam inhalers.
Q. Will a steam inhaler help with my congestion?
A. Yes. Many people use steam inhalers to break up congestion, whether it's from a virus — like a cold or the flu — or from a chronic respiratory condition like asthma. That said, some users find the results to be more dramatic than others, so your mileage may vary.
Q. Can I use tap water in my steam inhaler?
A. Most steam inhalers can take regular tap water, as they boil the water to turn it into steam. The act of boiling removes most, if not all, harmful germs and bacteria. However, some models require distilled water, so you should always check before use.
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At BestReviews, we purchase every product we review with our own funds. We never accept anything from product manufacturers. Our goal is to be 100% objective in our analysis, and we do not want to run the risk of being swayed by products provided at no cost.