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Health Library

For Managing Congestion
Inhale Steam

Even though studies have not been performed to evaluate its benefit, some people find that inhaling steam can be very soothing in the management of acute sinusitis. Studies do show a small benefit when steam is used in this way to treat symptoms of the common cold.

One way to use steam treatment is to fill a bowl with steamy hot water. Then lean over the bowl in a comfortable position, and drape a towel over the bowl and your head to keep the steam in. Relax and breathe in the steam for about 10 minutes at a time. You can repeat this several times a day. Be careful not to scald your face by touching the water. You can also find steam inhalers made for this purpose in stores. You can also try hot packs over your face several times a day.

Saline Nasal Sprays/Nasal Irrigation

Some doctors recommend a nasal irrigation device and warm salt solution to wash out your sinuses and nasal passages. Check with your doctor to see if they recommend a particular device. Nasal irrigation is most often used in the management of chronic sinusitis. There is some evidence that it may be helpful and little to suggest that it is harmful. Be sure to use distilled water if advised.


Acute sinusitis in adults. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Updated December 18, 2012. Accessed January 9, 2013.

Alho OP. Viral infections and susceptibility to recurrent sinusitis. Curr Allergy Asthma Rep. 2005;5(6):477-481

Chronic rhinosinusitis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Updated December 18, 2012. Accessed January 9, 2013.

Sinusitis. American Academy of Otolaryngology website. Available at: Accessed January 9, 2013.

Sinusitis overview. American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology website. Available at: Accessed January 9, 2013.

Last reviewed August 2015 by David Horn, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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