If you tend to spend winter sniffling up a storm, a salty stay may be just what you need to clear up your nasal passages. You’ve likely used wet saline therapy (e.g., a neti pot or spray) for relief when your nose is stuffed. But the dry alternative, known as halotherapy and popular in Eastern Europe for centuries, is experiencing a resurgence here in the U.S., says Gary Patrick, co-founder of Breathe Easy, a dry salt therapy spa chain based in New York City.
During the therapy, you spend time—typically 45 minutes—in a room with a salt-lined floor and walls while a halogenerator (a dry salt aerosol generator) diffuses microscopic salt particles into the air. Those salty bits get into your sinuses and lungs and can break up mucus there, says Leonard Bielory, M.D., an allergist and immunologist at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick, N.J., who has reviewed research on halotherapy. (Wary of inhaling a mineral more closely linked to high blood pressure than healing? You’ll actually get less sodium in one session than in a single bite of a deli sandwich, Patrick notes.)
Still, research on the therapy is scant, and there’s no real oversight of these spas; without an agency reviewing the quality of salts in every facility, the burden falls on you. Inquire about the purity and origin of a spa’s salt (you want a place that’s upfront about its sourcing and uses only pure, unadulterated sodium chloride), so you don’t wind up inhaling lead-contaminated sodium—highly unlikely, but still possible. Bottom line: If periodic visits to a salt room help you breathe easier through cold and flu season, alleviate asthma symptoms or stave off allergy flare-ups, Bielory gives the green light to keep ‘em up—with your doctor’s approval.