Dry Salt Therapy for Seasonal Allergies

Every spring and fall, allergy sufferers make the typical rounds with prescription medications, antihistamines and decongestants.

Since none of these offer long-lasting relief and the accompanying drowsiness can be as bad as the symptoms themselves, an increasing number of patients are turning to complementary medicine.

Yet, practitioners are always encouraged to use more caution when prescribing complementary alternative therapies (CAM) for allergies, since the most common adverse effects are also allergic in nature, including urticaria, contact dermatitis, and anaphylaxis. One popular example is the use of Echinacea for upper respiratory tract infections. The public generally accepts Echinacea, and this herb is thought to be therapeutic. However, in patients with allergies to ragweed, chrysanthemums, marigolds, and daisies, there may be an increase in allergic rhinitis when these patients use Echinacea

By contrast, the European herb butterbur (Petasites hybridus) is becoming a safe and popular option to treat hay fever, especially after a group of British researchers approved it as effective for treating grass allergy at the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology’s 60th Annual Meeting.

Most allergists are also recommending using neti pots, or include freeze-dried nettles and a tonic made from the herb goldenseal, which is added to a saline (salt water) nasal spray.

Dry Salt Therapy
New on the scene is the concept of dry salt therapy. At dry salt wellness centers, which are springing up throughout the country, people sit in a treatment room for 45 minutes breathing a dry salt aerosol that’s ground to the size of a red blood cell and inhaled into the deepest part of the lungs. The pharmaceutical grade salt absorbs the pollen and allergens and enhances the respiratory system’s natural cleansing process.

Sindhura Bandi, MD, assistant professor of allergy and immunology at Chicago’s Rush University Medical Center has noticed a surge in patients asking about dry salt therapy. Though she noted it breaks down mucus in the nasal passage and airways and decreases bacteria and inflammation, she stops short of endorsing it.

“There is evidence to suggested improvement of allergies and allergic rhinitis, as well as chronic sinus infections, with the use of nasal saline rinses. However, there is a potential for dry salt therapy to possibly exacerbate asthma in some of my patients, thus; I have not recommended it thus far,” she noted.

SEE ALSO: COPD and the Seasons

For asthmatics, some literature suggests salt acts as an irritant by stimulating nerves in the nasal passage and causing it to constrict. For this reason, some doctors may insist the salt grinding generators are set to a lower dose but others say asthma patients should steer clear of dry salt therapy.

Michael Power opened BreatheReady Wellness Center in Menomonee Falls, Wis. in April after being converted to the power of therapeutic salt. After more than 40 years of allergy injections and prescriptions as well as over-the-counter medications for hay fever, congestion and chronic coughing, he sought a CT scan, in which the doctor told him it was the “grossest sinus infection he’d ever seen”.

Power declined an invasive surgical procedure to treat his sinus issues because of the risk of leaking brain fluid and began researching alternatives. He discovered halotherapy and a plethora of European research citing improved respiratory function, fewer and less intense asthma attacks, increased airway drainage function, lessening of phlegm secretion and relief from coughs, improved mucociliary clearance, and decrease of bronchial inflammation, to name a few studies.

“An increasing number of patients are turning to complementary medicine for allergy relief.”

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Power wanted to ensure the results would translate to the U.S. population before opening a business, so commissioned a market research study out of Brookfield, Wis., approximately 13 miles outside Milwaukee. According to Power, out of 2,300 research participants in Milwaukee, 43% had a debilitating respiratory condition that had been treated at least once with prescription or over-the-counter medication. After trying dry salt therapy, Powers said 87% of those with the respiratory condition expressed interested in a return treatment session.

Short-Term Solution
There’s also the investment of time and money. For allergies, the recommended Immune Boost and Respiratory Cleanse course is 15-20 sessions, with each session lasting 45 minutes. At BreatheReady, the price of the session ranges from $450 (for 15 sessions) to $580 (for 20 sessions). Insurance companies do not reimburse for dry salt therapy, so patients need to pay out of pocket.

Powers acknowledges that the therapy isn’t meant to last for life. The symptoms benefits should last six months to a year before a patient would have to undergo another round. However, he noted his regimen isn’t intended to replace traditional allergy treatment. “Dry salt therapy with pharmaceutical grade salt will improve the effectiveness of inhalers and allergy medications,” he explained. “If you’re opening the lungs and removing obstructions, inhalers will be more effective.”

Robin Hocevar is on staff at ADVANCE. Contact [email protected].

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