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Myth busted: Steam inhalation does not help sinus infection

Stuffy nose? Nasal irrigation helps symptoms but steam inhalation doesn’t, reports a UK study

health and fitness Updated: Jul 18, 2016 13:26 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times
Sinus

About 140 million people in India suffer from chronic rhinosinusitis or sinus infection.(Shutterstock)

Stuffy nose? Nasal irrigation - a popular nonpharmacologic treatment — lowers nasal inflammation and pain but steam inhalation doesn’t, show results of a randomised controlled trial published in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal).

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Close to 140 million people in India have chronic rhinosinusitis, or sinus infection, which causes symptoms of pain in the forehead or between the eyes, stuffy nose, heavy head and inflammation in the inner lining of the nose that can last for a few days to several weeks.

Steam inhalation and nasal irrigation are the most popular alternative to treatment using antibiotics, which are often always very effective.

Common symptoms of sinus infection include pain in the forehead or between the eyes, stuffy nose, heavy head and inflammation in the inner lining of the nose. (Shutterstock)

For the study, 871 patients from 72 primary care practices in England were randomly assigned to one of four advice strategies: usual care, daily nasal and saline irrigation supported by a demonstration video, daily steam inhalation, or combined treatment with both interventions.

Read: Think twice before giving cough and cold medicines to your children

“We found that even a very brief intervention of a video showing patients how to use saline nasal irrigation can improve symptoms, help people feel they do not need to see the doctor to manage the problem, and reduce the amount of over-the-counter medication they need to use,” said Dr Paul Little, primary care and population sciences unit, University of Southampton, UK.

Patients who were instructed to use nasal irrigation showed improvement at three and six months, as measured by the Rhinosinusitis Disability Index. Steam inhalation did not appear to alleviate symptoms of sinusitis.

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