Can Salt Rooms Treat Asthma?

After spending a day at the beach, do you find yourself breathing easier? Many believe that the salt contained in ocean air helps to clear their nasal and airway passages, which can be especially helpful for asthmatics.

But you don't have to head to the shore every time you need some relief for your asthma or related allergy symptoms. Instead, some doctors suggest that you visit a salt room in your area and reap similar benefits. But before you go, here are the possible risks that can come with this alternative treatment method.

Halotherapy: a Growing Trend

A growing number of spas and health clinics in major cities across the United States are now offering salt rooms, where people can address whatever ails them and then sit and relax. Often sea salt covers the walls and floors and a nebulizer-type machine or generator delivers bursts of miniscule, pure salt particles into the air. Some treatment centers also offer child or family-friendly salt rooms set up like a giant sand box, but filled with salt instead of sand.

Salt Therapy for Asthma

The goal of most salt rooms is to mimic the conditions you would find ocean side or in a salt mine, since these types of settings seem to be especially good for treating asthma and other respiratory ailments. Many patients report feeling significant health improvements, such as a decrease in runny nose and post-nasal drip, less coughing, and better breathing after just one halotherapy visit. The recommended course of treatment can be anywhere from 10 to 20 visits (lasting 30 to 60 minutes each) over the course of a month or two, with the benefits said to grow with each visit and the positive effects lasting up to one year.

A Word of Warning

While the concept of salt therapy for asthma sounds encouraging, not all doctors are sold on the results. Some even have serious concerns about this treatment method. Part of the problem is that the research on salt rooms is still quite slim, with most studies conducted and published in other countries. In addition, the benefits of salt rooms for asthma seem to be short-lived.

Some experts also fear that breathing in salt can actually worsen asthma in some patients by irritating the airways and causing them to constrict, and also engaging the nasal passages to make allergy symptoms worse instead of better. 

Should You Visit a Salt Room?

Whether you try a salt room or not is a very personal decision, but if you're considering the idea, the experts recommend getting your doctor's okay before your first visit. If you do get the green light, let management at the salt room know you have asthma and ask them to ensure that the conditions will be as safe as possible for your condition. This may mean turning the salt machine on low to minimize airway irritation and/or keeping the first visit short to see how you respond. It's also important to continue using your asthma medication as directed. Hopefully, your asthma will improve from the treatment, but if you do notice that your symptoms are getting worse, always follow your asthma action plan and seek emergency medical care, if necessary.


Dador, Denise. "Do salt rooms really help fight allergies?" ABC News, 19 March 2010. Web. 5 July 2011.

Elkins, Mark R. et al. "A Controlled Trial of Long-Term Inhaled Hypertonic Saline in Patients with Cystic Fibrosis." The New England Journal of Medicine 354 (2006): 229-24. Web. 7 July 2011.

Johannes, Laura. "Taking a Mound of Salt for What Ails You." Wall Street Journal Digital Network, 11 May 2011. Web. 5 July 2011.