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Steam inhalation – Purposes, articles, points to remember

Definition/ introduction:  Steam  Inhalation is an application of moist heat to the respiratory passage. It may be plain or medicated inhalation.  It   is the deep breathing of vapor or gas into the lungs for a local effect on the air passages.


Utilization of moist heat to loosen lung congestion and help liquefy secretions.


  1. To relieve the inflammation and congestion of the mucous membranes of the respiratory tract and paranasal sinuses thus to produce symptomatic relief in acute and chronic sinusitis.
  2. To soften/ liquify  thick tenacious mucus which helps in its expulsion from the respiratory tract.
  3. To get warm moisten air in acute bronchitis, whooping cough or after tracheostomy.
  4. To aid in absorption of oxygen.
  5. To relieve spastic conditions of the larynx and bronchi.
  6. To provide antiseptic action on the respiratory tract e.g by using menthol, eucalyptus and tincture benzoin.
  7. To relieve congestion and edema of the larynx.

Point to remember:

  1. Steam inhalation can be given using a nelson’s inhaler  or electric inhaler.
  2. When a wide- mouthed vessel is used for inhalation, patient’s head and inhaler may be covered  using a sheet or blanket to  help increase the concentration of steam.
  3. During inhalation if patient stops for a while for coughing or expectorating sputum, the spout may be closed with cotton ball to prevent escape of steam.
  4. Avoid spilling and prevent scalding.
  5. Never leave babies or a helpless patient along with an inhaler.
  6. Put off fans.
  7. Avoid droughts and chilling the patient.
  8. Check the inhaler and mouth piece for cracks and leakage before use.
  9. Give treatment regularly as ordered.


Steam inhalation through Nelson’s inhaler

1.tray containing

  1. Towel
  2. Nelson’s inhaler in a bowl
  3. Sputum cup with antiseptic solution ( 1% savlon)
  4. Inhaler mouthpiece
  5. Gauze piece
  6. Cotton balls
  7. Ounce glass ( if needed )
  8. Face towel
  9. Kidney tray
  10. cardiac table
  11. pillows
  12. medication like tincture benzoin if ordered
  13. boiling water ( 1600 F)
  14. A Sheet or extra blanketSteam inhalation through electric steamerA  tray containing
    1. Towel
    2. Electric steamer
    3. Sputum cup with antiseptic solution ( 1% savlon)
    4. Gauze piece
    5. Cotton balls
    6. Ounce glass ( if needed )
    7. Face towel
    8. Kidney tray
    9. cardiac table
    10. pillows
    11. medication like tincture benzoin if ordered
    12. A Sheet or extra blanket