The Salt Room: Breathe Easy
Salt therapy provides a natural alternative for people with respiratory and skin issues.
Ashley Steiner was desperate to find help for her young son, who remained in an endless cycle of colds and ear infections.
“By the time he was 3, he was always on antibiotics. He got tubes, and after the tubes fell out, he was back to the same routine,” the former third-grade teacher recounts. So she began to research preventive care. Her search led her to salt therapy, a popular treatment in Europe, but virtually unheard of in the United States.
That was 2011, the year she opened The Salt Room, the nation’s second salt therapy center. “My son has not been on antibiotics since I opened,” Steiner says. She herself is asthmatic and is prone to bronchitis with the onset of a cold. No longer needing an emergency inhaler, Steiner gets three salt treatments a week when she feels a cold coming on, and her symptoms “just go away.”
Doctors have historically prescribed the inhalation of salty air, particularly for patients with respiratory issues. The pharmaceutical-grade salt used in salt therapy—naturally antibacterial and anti-inflammatory—is ground to 3 to 5 microns, resulting in air four times saltier than ocean air for easy inhalation. Patients with dermatological conditions such as psoriasis and eczema and those with respiratory illnesses have reported a reduction in their symptoms.
Clients lean back in upholstered or zero-gravity recliners in dimly lit rooms lined with thick walls of rock salt and carpeted in crushed salt. Ambient music plays in the background during the 45-minute session in which tiny salt particles are propelled through the air. Down the hall, children play in their own salt room complete with a toy kitchen, desks, crayons, toy trucks and shovels.
Kelsey Blahnik joins her two daughters to help relieve environmental allergies and sinus issues. “It’s a sensory experience for them. They sort and dig and sift through the salt rocks,” Blahnik says.
Dr. Daniel Layish of Central Florida Pulmonary Group, who has authored research on the benefits of salt therapy in cystic fibrosis patients, says salt therapy works by thinning out mucus. “I look at it as adjunctive therapy,” says Layish, a member of the Salt Therapy Association of Boca Raton. “People with chronic conditions go once or twice a week and feel it helps with maintenance.”
Layish got sold on the treatment when his patients began to experience improvement. “These are people who are very, very sick, and they’re coming back to me saying, ‘Wow, this is great.’ ” Since then, “I’ve sent hundreds of patients to The Salt Room,” he says.
The Salt Room now has 10 locations in Florida, including one in Winter Haven. A similarly modeled center, The Salt Scene, opened in Windermere in 2015. Forty-five minute sessions at The Salt Room cost $45, with multiple packages available. New clients pay $15 for an initial visit at The Salt Scene, which offers monthly memberships.
For 71-year-old Cathy Bacigaupi, weekly salt therapy sessions have become “part of my DNA now. Going there keeps me well.” She began getting treatments in 2011 during a lengthy bout of walking pneumonia. “By the time I had my fifth visit, I no longer had walking pneumonia,” she says. “I never would have dreamed that sitting in a room breathing salt air would be the key to me feeling so energetic, healthy and well.”