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Steam inhalation vapes to alleviate cold symptoms

Image credit: https://hher24.com/is-vaping-safe/

Povilas S
Povilas S Nov 03, 2022
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Steam inhalation is a well-known and commonly used home remedy to relieve the symptoms of the common cold and flu. There are handheld devices for practicing more convenient/efficient steam inhalation, that looks like this:
The idea is to make a tiny steam inhalator the size and shape of a conventional e-cigarette - a steam inhalation vape.
  • Make steam inhalation more user-friendly.
  • I believe this could be an attractive product, similarly to how there are over-the-counter anti-cold candies to quickly relieve your breathing while sick, disposable inhalation vapes could serve a similar purpose.
  • A healthier version of conventional nicotine (or even nicotine-free) vapes - the vape would only contain water vapor and some essential plant oils, like mint, eucalyptus, etc.
  • When smokers get sick and experience respiratory tract congestion, coughing, sneezing, and just generally feel unwell, they tend to smoke less or not smoke at all during that time. The proposed product would both help them alleviate those symptoms and serve as a smoking/vaping replacement.
  • E-cigarettes often have menthol as an additive to the vape they produce, a similar flavor would be produced by steam inhalation vapes due to plant essential oils.
How it works:
It would work very similarly to how conventional e-cigarettes do, just that the aerosol produced by the device and inhaled by the user would merely be a mixture of water vapor and some essential plant oils (any suggestions for other beneficial substances that could be used?).
Challenges to tackle:
To produce enough steam for the user to feel the benefits, the device must contain a substantial amount of water inside it, therefore the device might end up being larger than conventional e-cigarettes, although it shouldn't be much larger. I did some calculations to find out: the average human lung capacity is about 6 liters, and 1 ml of water can produce around 1,7 liters of steam. Let's say the person uses half of the full lung capacity with one inhalation, then with 50 ml of water they could do: 50 x 1,7 / 3 ~ 28 inhalations. That's not bad and the device would have to be only slightly larger than a conventional vape (50 ml is a quarter of a water glass).
From a product demand perspective, it would work best if the devices were disposable - similarly to anti-cold candies or chewing gum - you bought one, used it, and disposed of it. But this poses ecological problems. It's of course possible to make steam vapes reusable, but then I believe they'd be less attractive to the users.
A partial solution to both of the above mentioned problems would be to make the device in a way that the user could easily refill the water once it's over. The essential oils or/and other substances contained inside the device that get mixed with the water during the steam production could last for a few water refills. After that, you'd only be inhaling steam. Also, the battery could be disposable and last only for a few water refills.
Due to the nature of the device, the user could only inhale the steam through their mouth, so it might be less effective in alleviating the symptoms than current, larger steam inhalation devices, but since you can exhale through your nose and the vapor would be warm when exiting the device, this shouldn't be too much of a drawback.
Creative contributions

Some existing technologies that question the necessity of the water

jnikola Nov 07, 2022
What you are proposing is actually a device similar to an asthma inhaler, but with other active substances and cooler looks, right? - A device that helps you inhale healthy active substances.

I searched a bit and found some existing products that could potentially be useful for developing the desired product:
Inhalation sticks and nasal sprays
Although missing a key part of the remedial effect of steam inhalation - the steam - that helps reduce congestion by liquidising the nasal mucus, inhalation sticks can serve the proposed purpose in the part of delivering the remedy to your lungs. Maybe making them heat up while being used could help achieve better results.
Dry herb vaporizer to avoid liquid usage
Although primarily used for smoking weed, these dry herb vaporizers could fit your proposed purpose. They work by heating the dry herbs and vaporising them. I imagine using any herbs instead of weed could work just fine, be used in a simple way using picked or bought herbs (the same as teas) and could be fairly small since it would not require a water tank. Hot air should be as good as steam. Tell me if I am wrong.
If large amounts of water (as seen in the examples in the idea description) are really of much greater benefit to humans with cold symptoms compared to dry vaporizers from this contribution, than this technologies could be tested for managing small to mild cold symptoms.
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Povilas S
Povilas Sa year ago
No, what I'm proposing is not really similar to an asthma inhaler. Asthma inhalers deliver medicines in aerosol form. There's no water vapor there as far as I know. They work pretty much like any aerosol spray.
Steam inhalation process involves vaporizing water by heating it (the most primitive method - bend over a hot pot of water and breathe in the steam), some additional substances, usually essential plant oils are sometimes added, but steam is the essential element in this. Warm, moist air loosens the mucus in your respiratory tract and helps relieve symptoms of cold common cold, or flu.
Essential oils add additional value by providing antimicrobial function and helping relax/deepen breathing (mint, eucalyptus, etc.). What I'm proposing is transferring this process into a tiny, e-cigarette-like device which would be a more user-friendly, quick-use product.
I'm not searching for a way to deliver any synthetic chemical (including medicines) to the lungs or the mucus of the respiratory tract. The inhalation would only be done through the mouth (as in the case of e-cigarettes). Since steam and essential oils are comparably healthy things to breathe in (compared to glycerol, propylene glycol, and synthetic flavors with or without nicotine that are the base of all e-liquids), it would serve as a "healthy" conventional vape replacement which helps to alleviate cold symptoms.
You are wrong about dry herb vaporizers. They create vapor of solid particles dispersed in the air, basically smoke, just not by burning, it's not healthy to inhale, especially if you are sick with a respiratory tract infection, it's like smoking while being sick. Steam is a whole different thing - it delivers humidity to your respiratory tract, while smoke makes it dry and makes you cough even more.
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jnikolaa year ago
Povilas S I got a bit lost in your comment, but ok, if I understood correctly, you put all your hopes in steam as the cold remedy and deny similarity with asthma inhalers, right? Tell me if I am wrong.
I completely agree the steam is a good remedy to alleviate symptoms of cold by the mechanisms you mentioned. But your product is not described to work as a steam inhalator, but more like an asthma inhaler. I'll try to explain why I think so.
Inhalation through the mouth is very different from inhalation through the nose
While you denied similarity of your proposed device to asthma inhaler, you tend to inhale steam through your mouth. You also compared your idea to anti-cold candies. That's a whole different mechanism of treating cold symptoms, compared to steam inhalation (such as being bent over the pot), which is specifically focused on the throat. Therefore, although you would inhale steam (and maybe some oils), it would primarily alleviate cold symptoms in your throat and lungs. It would barely touch your nasal mucus, thus not relieving the usual cold symptoms such as respiratory tract congestion or sneezing. Although you mentioned in fourth paragraph that you are not searching for a way to deliver synthetic chemicals to lungs, it seems that that's exactly what you would be doing, since inhaled vapor, steam or aerosol all end up there.
Regarding dry herb vaporizers, I guess you are right. What I had in mind was using the convection heating method using hot air to extract mineral oils from the plants and breathe them. Just a dry hot air could make the symptoms worse, as you said. What I had in mind was a mechanism similar to inhalation sticks, that help alleviate cold by simply breathing in natural remedies like mint through hot air that could help dissolve the thick nasal mucus blocking your airways.
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Povilas S
Povilas Sa year ago
J. Nikola The only similarity with the asthma inhalator is the small size of both devices. If steam inhalators can be made into handheld devices as shown in the picture in the idea description, I don't see a reason why they can't be made even smaller into an e-cigarette-like device. Why it's more an e-cigarette than an asthma inhaler - because e-cigarettes heat substances to produce the vapor while asthma inhalers are aerosol sprays and work by a different mechanism.
I might be wrong, but I don't think inhalation through the nose is so important to make this work, since it's all connected inside the respiratory tract, you can't prevent steam from entering the nasal passages if you breathe it in through your mouth and vice-versa. I know it's more efficient if you can do it both ways, but you can always exhale the steam through your nose (e-cigarette smokers often do this).
I only compared the idea to the anti-cold candies because they are a quick-use, over-the-counter product, not due to the similarity in working principles. Yes, I'm not searching for a way to deliver synthetic chemicals - water vapor and essential plant oils are not synthetic chemicals thus steam inhalation is a natural remedy.
Regarding the third paragraph - I understand, it makes sense then. Hope it's clearer now:)
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Medically approved vapes in pharmacies

jnikola Nov 07, 2022
Disposable medically-approved vapes
A great way for doctors to give patients prescribed therapy using pre-made or personalized herb or oil mixtures in the shape of disposable cartridges. Could be locked for usage only when properly attached to a certified vaporizing device.
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