Salt therapy, also referred to as halotherapy, is becoming a more common practice for treating sinus problems, including the symptoms of allergic rhinitis. In fact, it’s touted to work for other respiratory conditions, including things like asthma, sinusitis, chronic bronchitis, and even lung diseases like emphysema.
What are Salt Rooms and Salt Therapy?
Salt therapy is actually a very old practice, dating back to Medieval times. However, it wasn’t a widespread treatment until recently, as benefits are becoming more and more apparent. It’s become especially popular in the US, the UK, and in South Africa.
At its core, salt therapy is a treatment practice that involves breathing in salty air. It seems very simple, but the practice involves some specific actions. There are two types of salt therapy, dry and wet, with salt rooms (or salt caves) becoming the common dry practice.
Dry salt therapy with salt rooms
Many spas have created salt rooms for therapeutic purposes, but more and more businesses dedicated to halotherapy are popping up. A salt room is completely free of humidity, making it incredibly dry. This alone can help relieve some of the symptoms of allergic rhinitis, considering that moisture in the air can cause greater numbers of allergen and irritate inflammation.
The salt is produced by a halogenerator, which grinds larger crystals of salt into millions of microscopic particles and pushes them into the salt room, which is sealed. The touted method by which this works for allergic rhinitis is by absorbing any allergens or toxins from the system. Then, these particles are exhaled.
The salt breathed in will enter the sinus cavity as well, and salt is a known anti-inflammatory properties. In addition, many believe that a negatively charged ion of salt will cause the release of more serotonin, which can help a patient feel better and happier, even when allergies might keep someone under the weather.
The wet method of salt therapy
Whereas a salt room is required for dry salt therapy, wet methods can be used at home, or anywhere, including the office. This method is believed by those who use it on a regular basis to help with all of the following:
- Relieve allergic rhinitis symptoms, especially through decongestion and anti-inflammatory properties
- Fight infection that can easily occur based on a compromised immune system during allergy attacks
- Prevent the recurrence of more severe allergic reactions and even prevent infection
Whether you’re a believer or not, there are no negative side effects of the practice, and it could be worth trying. There are several ways to accomplish wet halotherapy, and the only ingredients are salt and water. For some, you may need a device for administration, but it’s simple enough to try:
- Drinking warm salt water (one part salt to four parts water, typically)
- Using a mixture of salt and water to irrigate the nasal passages (this requires a nasal spray bottle or a squeeze bottle)
- Gargling with salt water, using the same solution as for drinking
- Bathing in salt water (either with table salt, Epsom salt, or bath salts, any of which can ease symptoms of allergic rhinitis)
- Using a floatation tank filled with salt water (which typically involves visiting a spa or allergy specialist)
Studies about salt therapy
There haven’t been an incredible number of studies on treating allergic rhinitis with salt therapy. However, those that have been conducted seem to point to the promise of relief through the practice.
A study in 2007 tested the use of halotherapy on patients who had COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). The patients who received halotherapy experienced notably fewer symptoms and a higher quality of life.
Another study that was conducted in 2014 showed patients with asthma and bronchitis had anti-inflammatory and anti-allergic responses triggered by the use of salt therapy, easing most of their symptoms after receiving salt therapy.
With these studies, it seems that the properties of salt therapy are more than capable of treating the less serious symptoms of allergic rhinitis with great success.
Safety of halotherapy
There have not been studies to determine the safety of halotherapy, and some believe that the practice, which is usually handled at a spa with no medical professionals, could cause issues in an emergency. However, because the ingredients are so simple, and because it’s a holistic treatment, there have been no reports of negative side effects, even from those who have used the method for years. From the reports, salt rooms and salt therapy, in general, seem to be perfectly safe, as well as effective, in treating symptoms of allergic rhinitis.
When some of the more common methods of treating allergic rhinitis, including chemicals such as antihistamines and corticosteroids, aren’t acceptable or don’t seem to be working, salt therapy and the use of salt rooms can be life-altering. While science may not be ready to back the practice, the fact that it’s been used for centuries without any negative results or question as to efficacy speaks to the possibilities.
Take note of the fact that an allergy to salt (which is extremely uncommon) could make this a poor option for treating seasonal allergies. Dry salt therapy in a salt room could cause dry nose and skin, so moisturizers or fragrance free lotions can assist in relieving irritation (any fragrance could cause additional irritation and rashes in patients with allergic rhinitis).
Overall, it seems that salt therapy is a good way to improve the quality of life not only for those who suffer from allergic rhinitis, but also for those with other breathing ailments, including some pulmonary diseases and asthma.