Six Flags, Salt, & Sputum
I was standing in line for a roller coaster with a friend at Six Flags chatting about sputum, as you do. She asked me if I’ve ever tried the local salt room for my asthma. We don’t share a diagnosis. However, she is aware of my asthma and occasionally asks thought-provoking questions about it. Until this point, I had no idea there was a local place to do salt treatments.
My asthma has been relatively easy to control and doesn’t place significant limits on my daily life. It really only gets in the way of all-weather long-distance bicycling at a vigorous pace. Which while disappointing to me, is a fairly minor complaint. I take a low dose inhaled steroid daily, pre-medicate for exercise, “properly” train for long bike rides, and rock on with my bad self.
Suggested salt treatment
My local Salt Room suggests a typical complete course of treatment requires a session at least 3 times a week for a total 10-20 individual sessions. These treatments are repeated twice a year prior to the worst seasons. 1 This is a big time commitment for me. I did a full course of allergy shots. It was a struggle to keep up with 1x a week allergy shot appointments for a few months. I’m not sure I could commit to multiple appointments in a week for several weeks of the year. My primary asthma triggers are exercise, dust mites, and mold. I don’t really have a “season” for my symptoms.
One controlled pilot study did show improvement in children with mild asthma who were not on an anti-inflammatory treatment. 2 The thing that piqued my interest was that they found no significant difference in exhaled FeNO, an inflammation marker, between the treatment and control groups.2 I’m eager to see if further research would show statistically significant objective measurement improvements. This study was 55 children with 14 visits over 7 weeks, which might explain the lack of inflammation marker improvement. As the study authors concluded a “salt room with halogenerator, may have some beneficial effects in mild asthmatic children. Randomized and larger controlled trials with long-term follow-up are necessary.”2
The reason that FeNO piqued my interest is that my medical team has explained that the name of the game for me as a young person is to keep my airway inflammation down. I have completely reversible airway constriction on my fairly minimal medication regime. I take my controllers because they give me a good quality of life. My medical team prescribes them to protect my long term lung health and capacity. We want to avoid airway remodeling, aka the permanent scarring/changes to my lungs from chronic inflammation. 3 Not the fun kind of remodeling where you get a beautiful kitchen out of the deal.
I think I'll chat with my doctors first
I might try salt therapy after a chat with my doctors. However, for now, I will stick to the daily controllers that keep my inflammation in check. The data available to me suggests that my doctors are right. Daily inhaled steroids are my best chance to have many decades of completely reversible airway constriction and near normal lung function.
Have you tried a salt room? Did you fall into a scientific literature rabbit hole on them and come to different conclusions than me?
Do you get muscle cramps caused by your asthma medicine?