Patients say they're breathing easier, thanks to salt

- Tommie Sturr and Marie Hunniecutt have decided to kick back in a beach chair and relax. They aren't outside; they are indoors.  And it's not sand under their feet; it's Himalayan salt.

"I would say I come about three times a month, sometimes four," said Sturr.

Sturr continues to come back to this salt room to help alleviate her allergies.

"It's improved my condition tremendously. Especially in the winter when my allergy cough would be so bad that it would develop closely into bronchitis. Since I've had bronchitis before, that's something you have to be very careful about. So rather than going into the doctor for more medication, I thought this is what I'm going to try. It's worked for me,” she explained.

Hunniecutt said she's breathing easier too.

"I've asked my allergist about it and he's not aware of any clinical studies on it, but they have noticed that my sinuses look better. So for me, that's good enough and I feel better,” she offered.

Kaylee Childs brought her children to a playroom covered in salt.  She said she's doing this for her baby daughter Myla to control her coughing.

She said Myla's doctor was surprised at her improvements.

"He couldn't believe how the inflammation had gone down and said that we could keep coming," said Childs.

Debbie Austerman is a former nurse who owns the Salt Grotto in Valrico.  She said the use of Himalayan salt to ease respiratory issues dates back to the 1800's and it's growing across the country.

"Year after year, more salt mines are opening up because it does work. What it does is it gets into your lungs. It breaks down the mucus, decreases inflammation. It's great for your sinuses. We have a lot of allergy and asthma patients here and it helps them tremendously," Austerman said.

Besides salt rooms, some choose a salt bed chamber. Himalayan salt lamps for the home are also becoming popular.

"These emit negative ions, which are heavier than the positive ions. They bond with them and it causes them to drop and that's what cleans the air," Austerman said.

While some may take the therapy with a grain of salt, those who keep coming back said to keep an open mind.

"If you can feel better and reduce the likelihood of getting pneumonia or bronchitis or sinus infection, I think it's worth it," Hunniecutt added.

A session in the salt room takes nearly an hour and costs about $45.  Of course, you should consult with a doctor when you consider any form of treatment.

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