By Nutrition Expert – Trupti Gurav,Mumbai
Our lungs are one of the most important organs of our body. But on a daily basis, we hardly do anything to protect it from harmful gases and smoke. Although, lungs are self-cleansing, if your lungs are continuously exposed to pollutants, they may get congested, inflamed and can make you feel heavy.
Our lungs are not only contaminated by tiny dust particles, but pollen, chemicals, and secondhand smoke can also enter the lungs and get trapped inside it. But there are some natural ways to detox your lungs.
Steam therapy is one of the best ways to cleanse your lungs. Inhaling water vapor opens the air passage and helps the lungs to drain mucus. As the problem of air pollution increases during winter due to the slow movement of the wind. The smoke and fog become stagnate near the ground forming smog and increasing pollution levels. 
Steam inhalation is one of the most widely used home remedies to soothe and open the nasal passages and get relief from the symptoms of a cold or sinus infection.
Steam therapy is absolutely natural. In fact, it’s about as close to nature as you can get, since our bodies are made up of 50-60% water and steam is just droplets of water. Quite simply, you are renewing one of your body’s natural biochemical elements.
Traditional methods of steam therapy are fine for adults or older teens but when using steam therapy for babies and children with stuffy noses and coughs, a steam vaporizer unit is recommended. 
Some Different Ways to Use Steam Therapy 
Traditional: Boil a few cups of water then pour the steaming water into a large bowl. Place gently on a firm flat surface, such as a kitchen table. Put a towel over your head to form a ‘tent’. Lean over with your face 15-20cm from the steam and inhale.
Shower: Run a hot shower and inhale the steam you can even use essential oils to help refresh and revitalize.
Personal inhalers: Personal hand-held vapor inhalers – like this and this are an easy and portable way to enjoy steam therapy on the go.
A great idea for the office or holidays, they are also popular with public speakers, actors and singers to help open up the airways before performance.
Warm Steam Vaporizers: Steam Vaporizers are plug-in electrical units which produce a steady flow of warm, humidified air to help ease cold symptoms. Very useful in the bedroom overnight, they can also be helpful during the day to raise humidity to healthy levels, particularly in winter to combat the drying effect of central air-conditioning.
The benefits of steam therapy? 
- The main benefit of breathing in moist, warm steam is that may help ease feelings of irritation and swollen blood vessels in the nasal passages. The moisture may also help thin the mucus in your sinuses, which allows them to empty more easily. This can allow your breathing to return to normal, at least for a short period of time.
- Steam inhalation may provide some temporary relief from the symptoms of: the common cold, the flu (influenza), sinus infections , bronchitis, nasal allergies
- Steam for sinus is particularly beneficial as steam inhalation moisturizes irritated, dry nasal and throat routes, thus improving inflammation and pain.
- Taking in steam supposedly softens the mucous discharge, leading to clearer emissions which are relatively easier to eject by blowing the nose or coughing.
- Steam therapy is completely natural and does not have any harmful side effects. Steam is simply droplets of water. Our bodies constitute almost 70 per cent water. So, it is a way of replenishing our body’s natural element.
- Taking steam therapy hardly costs anything. Even if you invest in a hand-held inhaler or steam vaporizer unit, it is not heavy on the pocket. Plus, these purchases may last you many seasons of cold and flu.
Study published by Tomohisa Ichiba, 2019, and they concluded that, warm steam inhalation before bedtime induced psychological relaxation and increased deep sleep in the early sleep episode, leading to an improved subjective sleep quality in participants with mild sleep difficulties and anxiety. These results suggest that safe and easy inhalation of warm steam via a steam-generating mask may have favorable effects on relaxation and sleep. 
How to inhale steam  
Steam equipment for cold may comprise the following things:
- A big bowl
- Clean water
- A kettle or a stove/microwave to heat up the water
- A large towel
- Bring the water to a boil.
- Transfer the hot, steaming water into the big bowl carefully and place it on a flat firm surface.
- Cover your head completely with the large towel till the back of the head to form a kind of tent.
- Bend over the bowl and shut your eyes.
- Hold your head at around 8 to 12 inches above the bowl.
- Set a timer for about 5 minutes.
- Breathe in slowly and deeply via the nose.
Don’t steam longer than 10 to 15 minutes for each session. However, you can repeat steam inhalation two or three times per day if you’re still having symptoms.
Steam vaporizers can get dirty with germs quickly, so you’ll need to wash it often to prevent bacterial and fungal growth. Wash the bucket and filter system every few days during use, too.
Need To Take Some Precautions While Inhaling Steam
Steam inhalation, if done correctly, is a safe procedure. But you can hurt yourself inadvertently if not careful. There is a possible risk of getting scalded because of the hot water, especially if you happen to knock over the bowl containing the steaming water. Certain precautions to bear in mind while inhaling steam can be: 
- Ensure that you put the bowl of warm water on a levelled stable surface to negate its chances of falling over.
- Do not lean too close over the bowl as you may sustain burn injuries.
- Remember to close your eyes during the inhalation process.
- Make sure that there are no children or pets around when you are doing the steam therapy through traditional methods to safeguard against any undesirable incidents.
- It may be safer to use an electric vaporizer for children rather than the conventional way of using a bowl of warm water.
- Refrain from inhaling the steam for more than 10 minutes for every session. You can always repeat the steam therapy two to three times a day to get the desired relief.
- In case you are using an electric vaporizer for inhaling the steam, be sure to clean its filter and bucket properly after every use to prevent fungal and bacterial growth.