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10 Hot Baths to Help a Cold

A woman with a cold sits on couch blowing her nose


Ever notice that when you get a cold, you want hot tea, chicken soup and a warm blankie? When you crave warmth, you are instinctively trying to destroy what’s making you miserable.

The steam from a hot bath can loosen mucus and clear nasal passages. Adding essential oils can provide additional decongestion. A detox bath can flush toxins. However, if you also have fever or flu, bathe in lukewarm—not hot—water, so as not to disrupt your body’s ability to regulate your temperature.

Not every bath is equally as effective at helping relieve cold symptoms. Read on for tips on how to maximize the decongesting powers of your bath. In this post, we’ll look at 10 hot baths to help a cold:

Hot Bath With SteamLoosens Mucous
Opens Sinuses
Turkish BathLoosens Mucous
Opens Sinuses
Decreases Muscle Pain
Bath with Vicks
Loosens Mucous
Suppresses Cough
Detox Bath with Epsom SaltFlushes Toxins
Decreases Joint Pain
Cinnamon BathSuppresses Cough
Eucalyptus Oil BathStimulates Body's Natural Immune System
Tea Tree Oil BathAnti-Inflammatory
Soothes Skin Irritation
Winter Wonderland BathStimulates Immunity
Herbal Foot BathSuppresses Cough
Stimulates Immune System
Peppermint Oil BathReduces Inflammation
Opens Airways


10 Hot Baths to Help Your Cold

Some baths pack a more powerful punch than others. But when you have a cold, it can be hard enough to muster the energy to fill a tub, let alone get all fancy about it. That’s why it’s best to have bath ingredients on hand before you feel like you can’t get out of bed. 

I always keep essential oils and Epsom salts just in case. But it’s great to know that even a plain water hot bath can work wonders to alleviate your cold symptoms and help you feel better. 


1. Inhale Steam While You Soak

A woman's face in bubble bath

This is a plain hot bath, but you want to take extra effort to capture steam in the bathroom, so close doors and windows while the tub fills. And if you have a glass shower door, keep that shut as well. If you have a draft coming in through bathroom windows or the bathroom door, roll up towels and place those on the door jamb or on the windowsill to block any wind. Soak for 20 minutes.


2. Take a Turkish Bath at Home to Decongest

Take a Turkish Bath at Home - Relieve Stress!

While a traditional hot bath is mostly water, a Turkish bath is mostly steam. The steam will loosen mucous, dilates blood vessels in the face and opens sinuses. Good stuff! Other benefits of a Turkish bath are detoxification and decreased muscle pain.

This type of bath involves subjecting your body to hot, warm and cool temperatures. It does require some equipment such as a kese glove and black soap, so you need to plan ahead and have the items on hand, just as you may keep certain medicines on hand for when you do get a cold. Watch the video above for details and read my post How to Get Tremendous Turkish Bath Benefits At Home.


3. Try Vicks in the Tub to Suppress a Cough

Pin - How to Use Vicks in the Bath or Shower

You’ve probably heard of Vicks VapoRub.  The active ingredients include menthol and camphor, which are both cough suppressants and topical analgesics, as well as eucalyptus oil, which is a cough suppressant.

Did you know that there are ways to safely use Vicks VapoRub in the bathtub? However, you can’t add it straight to your tub water. The hot bath water will cause the gel to clump up and disperse unevenly. This can irritate your skin and cause stinging. It can also make the bottom of the tub slippery and put you at risk of a fall.

That said, there are several alternative ways to use Vicks VapoRub in the bathtub or shower. And now there’s Vicks VapoBath. For details, read my post Vicks in the Bathtub? Absolutely! Here’s How.


4. Take a Detox Bath with Epsom Salt to Flush Toxins

woman sweats

A detox bath can help with muscle and joint pain, as this type of bath can flush toxins from your system. But go slowly and be sure to hydrate before, during and after. Read my post about What to Expect After a Detox Bath to get a recipe for a detox bath with Epsom salt, ginger, turmeric and decongesting essential oils.

Warning: Anyone who is pregnant should not take a detox bath. If you have cardiac, blood pressure or circulation problems, another chronic illness or are over 70 years old, you should consult a doctor first. Infants and children should not take a detox bath without first consulting a pediatrician. 


5. Use Cinnamon in the Tub to Soothe a Cough


Many essential oils have been used by cultures around the globe for hundreds of years to alleviate common cold symptoms. Essential oils are extracted from plants and contain the essence of that plant’s aroma 

Inhaling cinnamon leaf essential oil is reported to relieve a cough. But you never want to put essential oils straight into the tub because they could irritate your skin. Instead, mix essential oils with carrier oils, such as coconut oil, jojoba oil or almond oil. Usually, you can add 12 drops of essential oil to 2 Tablespoons of carrier oil. Mix in a small bowl and then add to bathwater.

Read my post Essential Oils in the Bath: How to Do It Right for more details, including how you can patch test essential oils on your skin before adding to the tub to ensure you won’t get skin irritation.

If you don’t have the essential oil, try dropping a handful of cinnamon sticks or a tablespoon of dried, ground cinnamon directly into your bathwater. 


6. Bathe with Eucalyptus Oil to Stimulate the Immune System

10 Hot Baths to Help a Cold
See it on Amazon.com

10 Hot Baths to Help a Cold 

Did you know there are more than 400 species of eucalyptus trees? Eucalyptus oil is extracted from the Blue Gum Tree and is an ancient cure for congestion. Research shows that this essential oil stimulates the body’s immune response. If I have a cold, I’ll leave the bottle of eucalyptus oil next to my bed and just sniff it from time to time for some immediate relief. Or I’ll mix it into a carrier oil and add it to my tub.

Another reason not to add the essential oil under the spout without first mixing it with a carrier oil is that it will just dissipate into the air. The carrier oil will help it spread evenly through the bathwater.


7. Take a Hot Bath With Tea Tree Oil to Soothe Irritation

Tea Tree Essential Oil
See it on Amazon

10 Hot Baths to Help a Cold 

This oil is put into everything from shampoos to soaps, because it has so many good properties. It is both anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory, and it can soothe your skin when you feel irritated all over—especially the skin under your nose which may be raw from blowing.


8. Make Winter Wonderland Bath Bombs to Relieve Cold Symptoms

winter wonderland bath bomb

If you want a great DIY project, then create several of these bath bombs. Keep them on hand for when you catch a cold. You’ll be so happy you have them!

The Winter Wonderland bath bomb recipe contains peppermint essential oil and eucalyptus essential oil to help fight your congestion. These bath bombs also help with allergies. (Read more about how to make bath bombs and the best way to store them.)


9. Take an Herbal Foot Bath to Boost Immunity

Homemade Foot Soak - Breathe Easy Foot Soak Ingredients

If you just don’t have the energy to plunge into the bathtub at all, try a foot soak. In Chinese medicine, each point on the feet corresponds to a point on the body. When you take care of your feet, your whole body will thank you!

See my recipe for The Breathe Easy Foot Soak, which I love, love, love when I’m stuffy and chilled. It uses cinnamon sticks and eucalyptus essential oils. Even if you don’t feel up to a full-on bath, you’ll get the pampering you need and relief for your cold.


10. Use Peppermint Essential Oil to Open Your Airways

Easy Peppermint Swirl Body Butter | 5 Minute DIY Recipe!

Anecdotal evidence says that peppermint oil is excellent at opening the airways that are blocked by mucous. That’s because it contains menthol, and animal studies prove that peppermint oil can reduce inflammation. You can mix peppermint essential oil with a carrier oil and then put it into your tub water. 

You can also make a super easy homemade Peppermint Swirl Body Butter and keep it on hand for when you feel congested. Follow directions in the video above, or download the recipe (along with other easy DIY bath recipes). Then use it to moisturize whenever you feel a little under the weather.


The Facts About Humidity and The Common Cold


hot stones with steam and flower


Understanding the way the common cold spreads can help you see why a hot bath might help. Researchers have observed that the common cold spreads more easily in cooler temperatures. With increased humidity, the common cold has more trouble traveling in sneezes and coughs from one person to the next.

One study analyzed the correlation between outside temperature, absolute humidity, and the likelihood of contracting a cold. The findings showed that when the temperature was below freezing and the absolute humidity was low, subjects spending time outdoors were more likely to catch a cold.  

So what does this mean for you? It means that the common cold does not like humidity. And it means that you may feel some relief from symptoms like congestion by inhaling steam from a hot bath. Another meta-study found that not everyone experiences relief from inhaling steam, but if you’re anything like me, taking a bath when you have a cold can be a lifesaver.

Dr. Sears, one of the world’s most famous pediatricians, is a huge proponent of warm steam to help a child with a cold or cough. Of course, if your child is going to get steam from a warm bath, always supervise a child in the tub.


Should You Sweat Out a Fever In the Tub?

Can You Sweat out a Cold?

The hypothalamus is a little thermostat in your brain that regulates your temperature. Dr. Travis Stork, of the show The Drs., had this to say: 

“When you try to sweat unnaturally…it kind of messes with your internal thermostat and where your body is trying to go. I am not completely adverse to things like steam showers, but this idea of sweating out a fever is a false notion.”

What I take away from Dr. Stork, is that once you have a fever, do not get in a hot tub and mess with what your body is trying to do on its own.


So Can a Hot Bath Prevent a Cold?

man in bubble bath

Let’s say you’ve only sneezed once or twice. You really just felt that worrisome tickle in your throat a few minutes ago. That is the very best time to fill the tub. 

In this post, Dr. Ron Eccles, director of Cardiff University’s Common Cold Centre actually said:

“As soon as I suspect I’m getting a cold, I run a bath as hot as I can bear and sit in it for at least 20 minutes.”

And while your tub is filling you may want to enjoy a glass of red wine, because researchers at the University of Auckland found that the flavonoids in red wine can help fight off a cold that has not quite developed.

So can a bath help a cold? Though some of the research has found mixed results, many leading experts like Dr. Ron Eccles still join me in shouting a resounding yes!


Other Healing Baths

Once you discover how a hot bath can help a cold, you may become curious to explore other baths that can heal your body. See my posts on Spiritual Baths. It contains healing bath recipes for anxiety, to connect couples and to help summon fertility.

Read my post on 20 Hot Bath Benefits for Mind, Body and Soul to dive into the research on why it is that baths have the tremendous power to heal us.


Note: You can turn your bathroom into a healing haven in your home. Get my free guide below. Just add your information to the form and I’ll send my pdf guide straight to your inbox.

Tags: benefits, can a bath help a cold?, essential oils

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