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Effect of Inhaling Heated Vapor on Symptoms of the Common Cold

Michael L. Macknin, MD; Susan Mathew, MD; Sharon VanderBrug Medendorp, MPH
JAMA. 1990;264(8):989-991. doi:10.1001/jama.1990.03450080075034.
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A double-blind, randomized study tested the efficacy of steam (technically, heated, humidified air) inhalation in the treatment of common cold symptoms. Two 20-minute treatments spaced 60 to 90 minutes apart were given at the time of enrollment. The active device (Rhinotherm, Netzer-Sereni, Beer Yaacov, Israel) delivered 40 L/min of saturated air at 40°C to 42°C, while the identical-appearing placebo delivered 2 L/min of ambient air at 20°C to 24°C. There were 34 patients in the placebo group and 32 in the active group. Significant improvements in the placebo-treated group were obtained on subjective symptom scores for nasal congestion, nasal drainage, and sneezing on isolated days during the treatment period (40% vs 25% on day 3, 71% vs 60% on day 6, and 100% vs 67% on day 7). Improvement in nasal resistance as measured by rhinomanography was better in the placebo group than in the active group on day 7 (11% vs—6%). Our study demonstrated no beneficial effects of steam inhalation on common cold symptoms.

(JAMA. 1990;264:989-991)


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