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

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I have lots 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 16.  But from the time when she was teeny her colds’ “go-tos” were 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, for the coughs, we tried teas, vaporizers, humidifiers, steamy showers in the middle of the night and natural remedies, thankfully bi-passing the artificial cough syrup medicines that are so popular among worried parents.

Steam Tents

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

I began learning about essential oils only a year before I found steam tents.  But I quickly saw why there are so many EO enthusiasts. Steam tent + EO = best relief!

I’m excited to share with you just how easy it is to bring relief and to provide you with the solution, too– safe for kids, great for adults, and effective.

Update– In 2015 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 (like mullein) 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 (find it here).  We also like clove (here), lavender (here) and peppermint (here) and have found them all to be effective.  Rosemary (here) and lemon (here) are also good options.  Eucalyptus (find it here) 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).
  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.) Be careful they don’t burn themselves, so stay nearby if they’re young.
  7. Have them lean their face directly over the steam (starting slowly), 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 if the steam is too hot or the oil’s vapors are too strong, adjusting their head position so they’re comfortable with the amount of heat on their face. They may like to keep their eyes shut at first.
  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. (I have *ahem* bribed my kids to stay under their tents, too, when they haven’t wanted to cooperate, by letting them watch a movie on my propped up phone. This works and is worth the parenting compromise in my opinion, if you’re desperate!)

How and When to Use a Steam Tent: for asthma, coughs, sinus infections, ear infections and more


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: this is making a moist environment in the lungs.  The mucus is breaking up.  And by the time the tent is no longer steamy it’s likely your patient’s cough will be 75% better, if not more so. (I am not exaggerating. It is wonderfully effective!)

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.

Asthma Healed

For those of you who haven’t read the story, our daughter was 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 healing tent.  The difference is tremendous: placid thankfulness and relief.

All Ages

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.  When our youngest was 5 he seemed to pride himself on his tent time, like he was a big enough boy to do it, showing us how long he could hang out in there.

We went through multiple colds with the sweet question, “Can I do a steam tent?”

And my daughter occasionally thinks she doesn’t like them now; but then she does one and remembers how effective they are… and so she sets time aside before bed to do them when she has a cold!

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.

Comments 17

  1. 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

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

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

  2. 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!

  3. 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 🙂

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

    1. 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!

  5. 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.

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