steam tent image

How and When to Use a Steam Tent- From Coughs to Ear Infections, Steam Tents Work!

Megan Essential Oils & Supplements, Health & Nutrition 17 Comments

Treatments and Sentiments that Didn’t Work

I have a lot of experience with getting through a night of coughing.  My daughter’s coughing.  Laying awake listening to her cough, not sleeping.  Getting up with her.  Talking to the naturopathic doctor in the middle of the night.

My daughter’s now 13.  But even from the time when she was teeny her cold “go-to” was her lungs and a cough.  She eventually, at the age of 7, was diagnosed with a bad case of asthma.  (See the update on her condition below.)

Over the years we’d tried teas, vaporizers, humidifiers, steamy showers in the middle of the night and a few natural remedies, thankfully bi-passing the artificial cough syrup medicines that are so popular among worried parents.


In the end I finally found the answer in a very simple remedy: the steam tent.  WE LOVE THIS METHOD.

I began learning about essential oils only a year ago.  But I quickly saw why there are so many EO enthusiasts.   I’m so excited to share with you how easy it is to bring relief.  And to provide you with the solution, too.

**Update**- Recently our family had a long-lasting virus. Three of us got painful ear infections. I learned from the experience that steam tents also help with ear infections. They release the pressure caused by excess fluid in the nasal and ear canals. Spending as long as 25 minutes in a steam tent can bring relief.  When herbal or garlic/onion ear drops don’t help enough, try a steam tent.


Tea tree oil is our favorite essential oil for a steam tent.  We also like clove, lavender and peppermint and have found them all to be effective.  Rosemary and lemon are also good options.  Eucalyptus is great for adults but not recommended for children.  You can make a blend of more than one.  This is how it works:

  1. Bring a saucepan of water, or a deep skillet of water, to a boil.
  2. Turn off the heat.
  3. Add 1-4 drops essential oil; (we use less for the children, based on their ages).  What brand? I have three organic brands in our home, all of which have been locally made or purchased at a natural foods market.  They all work well.  I have personal healing stories from all three brands!  Just make sure it’s organic and that your intuition tells you it comes from a company with integrity.
  4. Have your patient (which may be you) sit down at a kitchen table comfortably.
  5. Place a hot pad on the table directly in front of them and have them scoot their chair in close.
  6. Bring the steaming water and place it right in front of them, on top of the hot pad.  Remind the patient not to touch the hot pot. (Alternately, pour the boiled water into a room temperature bowl.)
  7. Have them lean their face directly over the steam, placing two bracing arms on either side of the pot, so they can support their leaning weight comfortably.
  8. Now drape a large dish towel over their head, and a bit over their shoulders, so the cloth creates a kind of tent. They can back off a bit now if the steam is too hot, adjusting their head position so they’re comfortable with the amount of heat on their face.
  9. They’re now inside the tent with the healing steam.
  10. The patient should hang out inside their healing tent until the steam stops, about 15 minutes, or as long as 25.

steam tent image

Some patients will continue to cough during this process and even need to get up once or twice to cough up huge amounts of phlegm. (A small dish nearby, or tissue, is handy for spitting up smaller amounts.)  Good.  We’re making a moist environment in the lungs.  The mucus is breaking up.  And by the time the tent is no longer steamy your patient’s cough will be 75% better, if not more so.

Your patient may also appreciate having tissues on hand. It is excellent to blow one’s nose as often as needed during the process.

Going to sleep after a steam tent, if it’s night time, may cause a few more coughs, as the patient’s body adjusts to post-nasal drip and lying down again.  But the coughs in our cases have abated quickly and long, quiet, peaceful sleep has followed.  (Being propped up on 2-3 pillows can be helpful with the worst of coughs, too.)

This is our experience and is in no way meant to replace or serve as a doctor’s advice.


For those of you haven’t read the story, our daughter was recently healed of asthma.  We still live in thankfulness and amazement every day.  Here’s the brief HOW story if you’d like to read it.  So now when she gets a cough, it’s just a cough.  And we have the steam tent to set her right.  I LOVE seeing her facial expression of peace when she comes up out of her little healing tent.  The difference is tremendous.  Placid thankfulness and relief.


I have, by the way, used this approach with all members of our family.  It’s so cool to see an 11-year-old boy excited about how effective a natural remedy is.  And it’s amazing to experience oneself the transformation in 15 minutes, from feeling desperately awful to feeling better.  Our 5-year-old seems to pride himself on his tent time, like he’s a big enough boy to do it, showing us how long he can hang out in there, lol.

We’ve been through multiple colds now with this sweet new question, “Can I do a steam tent?”

Let me know your stories with steam tents and essential oils.  Please come back to comment when you try this remedy.  From one mama to you, it feels so good to help each other find answers, relief and healing.

  • Darlene

    I loved this relating of Franny’s and the families journey and am thrilled for her success and continued healing. Gave me great appreciation for your over the top dedication to wellness & wholeness. Many of these remedies are old ones and I ascribe and believe in them too. See we do have much in common! What a great Dr you found too. I always tell people to never accept “Just live with it…nothing more we can do” messages. Love you all and with blessings, your Aunt in Seattle xxxooo

  • Love to you and thanks for your sweet comments!!! Yes, we really have to keep digging until we get answers and healing! <3

  • I love this simple idea! I always get in a really hot shower…but DUH! I will be trying this!

  • *face palm* Why didn’t I think of this!? I wonder if my 3 year old would go for it…

  • Oh no, my son sounds similar – he is prone to coughs, dry awful sounding coughs. I love steam tents but haven’t thought of it in a long time, going to try this next time coughing happens!

  • This is so simple, but so brilliant! It always seems that the most simple treatments really are the most effective! And I love your recommendations for EO’s to use, I don’t think I would have thought to use tea tree. Thanks for the info 🙂

  • Sorry for you and hopefully it won’t evolve into anything worse. 🙂 Glad the steam tents can help!

  • Yes, maybe if it was a game and kind of fun for him. I love the name “tent.” 🙂

  • naturalfitfoodie

    What a great idea Megan! I have my facials this way but never thought to do this ‘medical’ reasons.

  • Megan Stevens

    Love that! I’m learning something from you too, lol. I never do facials but when I’m doing steam tents I think, This must be good for my skin too. 😉 Cheers!

  • Megan Stevens

    Thanks, Sarah!

  • Megan Stevens

    Love to you and thanks for your sweet comments!!! Yes, we really have to keep digging until we get answers and healing! <3

  • Megan Stevens

    So glad! We used to do showers and baths too. This is not only easier but so much more concentrated to the purpose. 🙂

  • Emily @ Recipes to Nourish

    Love this idea! I have never tried this before but will for sure now. Pinned it so I won’t forget. Thanks for sharing this with us.

  • Megan Stevens

    It is so helpful, Emily; glad you have it pinned for next time! 🙂

  • Chloe

    Great idea, especially with the essential oils. Pinned!

  • I love how simple this idea is. I remember my mom doing a steam tent a few times growing up and I thought it was so strange. Now that I’m a mom, I love finding easy, affordable, natural ways to keep us healthy!