(Last Updated On: May 22, 2023)

Do Hot Showers Help with Asthma?

If you’re an asthma sufferer, you may know that respiratory conditions can be triggered and worsened by environmental factors such as air pollutants, pollen counts, and even common triggers like tobacco smoke and allergies. For people with asthma, finding ways to relieve symptoms and manage the condition in daily life is crucial. One such method is daily showering, specifically with hot water and steam. However, some people find that heat makes their asthma worse, so it’s important to know your personal triggers.

Silhouette of woman taking shower behind steamy door

The Effects of Hot Showers on Asthma

For people with asthma, taking regular steam showers can be an effective way to manage their symptoms and find relief. Steam has proven to be a productive treatment for a variety of respiratory conditions. One of the most significant benefits of a steam shower for those with asthma is that it opens up airways. The heat and steam combination can help reduce inflammation in the airways, leading to easier breathing.

The steam can also help to clear mucus buildup in the respiratory passages, making it easier to breathe and reducing the risk of potential asthma attacks. Steam showers also have other positive effects on respiratory health. They can help to clear sinuses and keep mucus membranes moist, which can prevent further mucus buildup and alleviate symptoms of other respiratory conditions.

Should People with Asthma Take Hot Showers?

For people with asthma, taking a hot shower can have both potential risks and benefits. On one hand, the heat and steam generated by a hot shower can help to clear out extra mucus in the respiratory passages, making it easier to breathe and reducing the likelihood of nighttime asthma attacks. This can be a powerful tool for managing asthma symptoms on a daily basis.

However, it’s also important to be aware of the potential risks of taking hot showers. When hot water is running in a closed bathroom, the oxygen levels in the room can be reduced, which can worsen asthma symptoms for some individuals. The steam generated during a hot shower can also be an irritant to the airways, triggering symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath.

For people with asthma who find that hot showers exacerbate their symptoms, there are several common triggers that may be to blame. In some cases, the tap water used in the shower may contain irritants such as chlorine or heavy metals that can inflame the airways. One solution to consider for those who find that hot showers worsen their asthma symptoms is the use of shower filters and air purifiers. Shower filters can help to remove irritants from the water, while air purifiers can help to remove pollutants and allergens from the air in the bathroom.

Benefits of Taking Hot Showers for People with Asthma

For many people with asthma, the heat and steam generated by a hot shower do wonders by opening up nasal passages, easing nasal congestion, providing moisture to the airways, and even reducing stress levels. Taken together, all of these benefits spell relief for asthma sufferers.

Opening Nasal Passages

Asthma can cause congestion not only in the chest but also in the nasal passages. This can make it difficult to breathe, especially during an asthma attack. People with asthma may experience symptoms such as a runny or stuffy nose, sneezing, and difficulty breathing through the nose.

Taking a hot shower can help alleviate this congestion by opening up the nasal passages. Breathing in the hot water mist can help to loosen mucus and make it easier to breathe. The steam from the hot water can also aid in moistening the respiratory passages, which can improve breathing. Dr. Basil Kahwash offers this explanation for how clearing nasal passages helps with asthma: The nasal airways and the lungs are connected, and untreated inflammation in one part of the respiratory system can spread to other parts, causing nasal and sinus congestion. An improved ability to breathe through the nose takes the pressure off the muscles in the lungs–the muscles you use to breathe.

Easing Nasal Congestion

One of the most common symptoms of asthma is nasal congestion. When the airways become inflamed, the body produces excess mucus, which can build up in the respiratory passages, making it difficult to breathe. This can cause discomfort and often leads to shortness of breath or chest tightness.

Fortunately, taking a hot shower can offer relief from nasal congestion for people with asthma. Steam showers are especially beneficial as the hot water vapor helps to break up the mucus, making it easier to drain from the airways. This can help ease congestion and improve breathing. When breathing in the steam from a hot shower, the warmth helps to loosen the mucus, which can then be easily expelled when coughing or blowing your nose.

Providing Moisture to the Airways

It’s important for people with asthma to keep their airways moisturized as dry air can trigger asthma attacks. Dry air can cause the mucus membrane to dry up, making it difficult for the body to produce enough mucus to protect the airways. This can lead to an increase in asthma symptoms, including shortness of breath, wheezing, and coughing.

Using steam is a great way to provide moisture to the airways and prevent an asthma attack. Steam serves as an expectorant, which helps to loosen mucus and phlegm within the respiratory system. This improves lung function, reduces blood pressure, and can ease chest tightness.

In addition to providing moisture, steam can also purify the air. When steam is produced, it can help to reduce respiratory irritation and asthma triggers, particularly for those who suffer from environmental allergies.

Reducing Stress

Hot showers have been found to be an effective technique to reduce stress and anxiety levels for people with asthma. Stress and anxiety can often trigger asthma symptoms, so finding ways to promote relaxation and reduce stress levels is important.

When an individual takes a hot shower, it triggers the release of endorphins–the body’s “feel-good” hormones. Endorphins work as natural painkillers, easing anxiety and making one feel relaxed and rejuvenated. Hot showers have also been shown to cut down the production of cortisol–a hormone that is often triggered by stress. Reducing cortisol levels through a warm shower promotes relaxation and removes a significant asthma trigger.

Considerations for Showering with Asthma

When it comes to managing asthma, understanding environmental triggers is a crucial step in creating a comprehensive management plan. Many individuals with asthma may not realize that the water they use to shower contains chlorine or chloramine, which could potentially cause respiratory issues. Chlorine is often added to tap water to disinfect it while chloramine is a combination of chlorine and ammonia, and both can irritate the respiratory passages, especially in those with respiratory conditions.

The Chlorine/Chloramine Effect

The use of chlorine and chloramine to disinfect our tap water is a common practice. However, for people with asthma, these chemicals can have harmful effects on their respiratory system. Chlorine and chloramine can react with organic matter present in water to form Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) such as chloroform, which can easily evaporate during a warm shower. The inhalation of these compounds can cause symptoms such as coughing and wheezing in individuals with normal respiratory systems and can lead to more severe reactions for people already struggling with asthma.

Removing Chlorine from Water

For people with asthma, exposure to chlorine in water during showers or swimming can be a major trigger for respiratory symptoms such as coughing, shortness of breath, and wheezing. Fortunately, there are effective ways to remove chlorine from water to reduce the risk of allergic reactions and other negative health effects.

One of the most effective solutions for removing chlorine from shower water is by installing a Berkey shower filter that protects the skin, hair, and eyes from chlorine damage. Using advanced filtration technology, Berkey shower filters can eliminate harmful chlorine and protect individuals with asthma from the potentially adverse effects of VOCs. Using a shower filter on a daily basis can add a powerful tool to asthma management efforts.

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