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Breathing in water vapour

BMJ Group Medical Reference

If you've got a cold your nose can get blocked. People often try breathing in water vapour to clear their nose. You can try bending your head over a bowl of hot water, with a towel covering your head. Use water that's hot, but not boiling, and take care not to scald yourself.

We don't know for certain if breathing in water vapour can make your nose less blocked and help reduce the soreness from a cold. There hasn't been enough research to say.

We found a summary of the research (a systematic review) that looked at people who tried inhaling water vapour.[25] It looked at six studies.

  • Some of the research showed that breathing in water vapour helped symptoms immediately or a few days later.

  • But one study found no improvement with this treatment.

  • The studies were all of poor quality. So we can't be sure whether this treatment helps.


systematic reviews

A systematic review is a thorough look through published research on a particular topic. Only studies that have been carried out to a high standard are included. A systematic review may or may not include a meta-analysis, which is when the results from individual studies are put together.

For more terms related to Common cold


For references related to Common cold click here.
Last Updated: October 23, 2012
This information does not replace medical advice.  If you are concerned you might have a medical problem please ask your Boots pharmacy team in your local Boots store, or see your doctor.

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