Salt therapy: the potential risks for children
Pediatric pulmonologist examines growing trend of drug-free treatment for respiratory problems
Seemingly overnight, salt therapy rooms are popping up everywhere. They promise treatment of conditions including allergies, asthma, skin conditions, chronic stress and fatigue; all without medications. But are they safe?
Karen Schultz, M.D., a pediatric pulmonologist at Cook Children’s understands the hype, but she sees at least one potentially dangerous side effect for children with asthma.
“To date, there are no published studies that prove or disprove the benefits of salt therapy,” Dr. Schultz said. “As with any therapy, even natural, there are potential side effects. One known side effect of inhaling a salt solution is constriction of the airways which could worsen asthma. So, even though the idea of a non-medicinal cure is attractive, at this point it cannot be recommended without further studies of both safety and results.”
On a website that lists salt rooms, more than 30 states have them. In Texas, at least two locations are in Dallas, one in Fort Worth and they are also found in Austin, Granbury and Southlake.
Saltescape.com describes a salt room, or halochamber, as “a microclimate designed to simulate the environment of a salt mine. The salt room is a dry, sterile environment that controls air temperature, humidity, air pressure and air content. Salt rooms are covered ceiling to floor in a salt application and utilize a halogenerator to crush pharmaceutical grade salt into small particles for inhalation to create the desired microclimate.”
Salt therapy offers a drug-free, non-invasive treatment where salt micro-particles enter into the lungs to help the healing process. Children as young as 3 months old have received treatment. Proponents of salt therapy believe children benefit from salt therapy because they are more prone to respiratory problems and their lungs aren’t fully developed until they are 9 years old.
"Treating medical conditions without medications does have its appeal, so we are always on the lookout for new ideas and ways of doing things. We must continue to evaluate new ideas with studies that compare any possible risk against the benefit,” said Dr. Schultz. “You can certainly find multiple testimonies from people who swear that they are better after salt therapy. In fact after people with cystic fibrosis (CF) anecdotally noticed that they did better by the ocean, studies proved that use of an inhaled salt solution slows progression of disease, and it has now become a standard therapy.”
About the source
Karen Schultz, M.D., is a pediatric pulmonologist at Cook Children's. To schedule an appointment with her call 682-885-6299. The Cook Children's Pulmonary team diagnoses and treats children with lung diseases. Our team includes board certified pediatric pulmonologists, clinical nurse specialists, registered nurses, respiratory therapists, Child Life specialists, clinical dieticians and social workers. The professional opinion of each team member, including parents, is considered in developing a plan of care for your child. We place a high value on continuity of care with your primary pulmonologist.