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We’ve now got our first Salt Booth at The Quays Swimming & Diving Complex in Southampton. If you’re unfamiliar with Halotherapy, and the health benefits salt can bring, you’re in the right place.

Deep beneath the ground near Krakow, southern Poland is Wieleczka, the world’s oldest functioning salt mine. But forget visions of Soviet-era forced labour. Wieliczka is also a health spa – people from all over Europe flock to breathe its revitalising air. And it’s not just the purity of the air – though asthmatics love it because it is deliciously free from those industrial toxins ground-side. It’s also full of micro-particles of salt. And for devotees, particularly those with breathing troubles, the salt is where the action is.

So what is halotherapy?

Halotherapy – the word comes from the Greek alas, salt – is an alternative therapy usually involving immersion in salty air.  A fortnight’s halotherapy underground at Wieliczka can set you back around £800. But the good news is that salt-air conditions can be easily, and cheaply, replicated.

‘Dry’ halotherapy usually involves a man-made salt-cave – it can be as small as a shower cubicle – where the air and temperature can be regulated. Humidity is stripped from the air and the temperature set to 20C or lower. A ‘halogenerator’ grinds salt into microparticles and releases them into the air – with sessions lasting anywhere from 10 mins to three weeks. (‘Wet’ halotherapy involves a range of procedures from drinking and gargling saltwater, to bathing and floatation chambers.)

How does it work and what are the benefits?

Halotherapists claim a raft of benefits for even short periods in the cave. The micro-salt particles are said to absorb irritants such as allergens and toxins from your respiratory system, breaking up mucus, reducing inflammation and clearing out airways. Advocates claim it can treat respiratory conditions such as chronic bronchitis, asthma, sinusitis and allergies and help ease the side-effects of smoking – coughs, breathlessness and wheezing.

Time in the cave is also said to help with psychological problems such as anxiety and depression, as well as improving skin complaints such as dermatitis, rosacea, acne, eczema and psoriasis. And for the sporty, it’s also said to boost athletic performance.

Are there any side effects?

Few if any have been reported. Some experience a scratchy throat or mild skin irritation, but they usually pass quite rapidly. There have been reports of a mild intensification of breathing problems – but these too are usually temporary.

Is it for everybody?

Given that all you’re doing is breathing air with tiny salt particles in it, chances are halotherapy is safe for most of us. There is a possibility that salt-rich air might aggravate breathing problems for some people, but there’s no hard evidence. Therapists suggest that if you have underlying health conditions, it’s worth talking to your doctor first. If you’ve got any of the following, it’s probably not right for you:

  •  Infectious diseases
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Tuberculosis
  • Severe hypertension.
What’s it like?

Artificial caves are designed to be as relaxing and therapeutic as possible. Expect peace and quiet – bring a book, or headphones if you want to listen to music. Sessions are fully clothed, so you don’t need to faff about changing – although if you’ve got some skin problems, you’ll need to expose the affected area. Sessions can be as short as ten minutes so you can pop in during your lunch break or whenever works for you.

How many sessions do you need?

Benefits are said to be cumulative – if you’ve got a chronic condition, then three to four times a week will max out the benefits. For those without underlying health problems, once a week is reported to give a boost.

Active Nation’s Salt Booth has launched at Quays Swimming & Diving Complex in Southampton.

To book call 023 8072 0900

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