Yes, that time of year is upon us again – the season of colds and flu. These maladies are causes by viruses and therefore cannot be successfully treated with antibiotics. But, there are things you can to to reduce the symptoms and feel better while your body rages the war on foreign invaders. Normally I try to avoid using medications as much as possible.
As an alternative to medications, I personally use steam inhalers. Although quite common in the United States, I have only seen 2 models here in Taiwan. We have the Omron NES18 (bought in Hukou for NT$3,500) and it’s probably the most unusual unit I’ve ever seen. There is a small internal tank where the water is boiled, and they recommend saline solution (which I don’t get). In the front is a small divided tank with a compartment for cold water and also a compartment for condensation discharge. The cold water mixes with the steam to ensure that it doesn’t burn you when you breath the vapors. I sometimes add a drop or two of some kind of medicinal oil, like Green Oil, or Tiger Oil to the water and breath the vapors.
When I used to live in the US, I had the Vicks Personal Steam Inhaler, and this simple unit is one of the easiest to use and is very effective. Basically, it’s just a small heating pot with a shroud and hood to concentrate the steam for inhalation. There are adjustable vents that permit outside air to mix with the steam to control the temperature. You can take off the clear plastic hood for cleaning. Adding medicinal oils works very well with this model too. I’ve also owned another model that was similar to this design but I have long forgotten the brand name. This design works alright but one has to sit over the unit with the face oriented downward more than the other designs.
This is the Mabis Healthcare Steam Inhaler. I have never owned one of these but I expect that it would perform as well as any of these other units and give you relief from sinus symptoms. This model boasts a variable steam adjustment with a particle range size of 0.5 to 10 microns. It also has a separate aromatherapy tank for adding medicinal oils.
Inhaling steam can clean your sinus cavities and leave you breathing freely. The steam also moisturizes tissues making your nasal passages feel relieved. For many people the symptoms of a cold or flu seem worse upon awakening. If you use a steam inhaler immediately after waking up, you just won’t believe the difference in how you feel later. The temperature of the steam is perfect for deep breathing and it feels great.
Just because you can’t find one of these steam inhalers doesn’t mean that you’re out of luck. In the old days we would heat a kettle of water and pour some boiling water into a bowl. A towel thrown over the head makes a good “tent” and allows you to breath steam until the water cools. You can also add medicinal oils to the bowl. I used to put a small amount of Tiger Balm in the bowl and add boiling water. The water melts the balm and releases the vapor. Just beware that when the water cools down the waxy base will re- solidify. You’ll have to clean that out of the bowl. The same goes for using Tiger Balm in an inhaler.
If you any of the following problems, one of these steam inhalers could be a godsend. Steam inhalation may help to relieve:
- Dry nose
- Nasal, sinus and chest congestion
- Parched throat
Here’s hoping that you can find some relief of these symptoms!