Salt therapy. How have I never heard of this until now? Seasonal allergies are a notorious scourge for central Texans, after all, and I grew up with terrible asthma, plus alternative health therapies interest me. But my recent trip to Austin’s only salt room, Breathe It In, was my very first exposure to this all-natural therapeutic alternative (also called halotherapy) for people suffering from a variety of respiratory and skin conditions including allergies, asthma and eczema.
(Breathe It In is giving away two children’s salt therapy sessions [a $40 value] to two Free Fun in Austin readers! To enter the giveaway, scroll all the way down to the bottom of the page, or read on to find out all about my family’s experience with salt therapy!)
Breathe It In is located on Hwy 183 in northwest Austin, just south of Anderson Mill (a few buildings south of the iFly indoor skydiving place). Family-owned and -operated, it just opened its doors in February, and is currently the only salt room in Central Texas. The proprietors were extremely friendly, knowledgeable and helpful; I learned they started the business after having great success treating their young son’s extreme allergies with salt therapy, which gave me hope the treatments would work for my son’s as well.
According to the Breathe It In website, the benefits of salt therapy include:
- Reducing symptoms of allergies, asthma, COPD, bronchitis and other respiratory conditions
- Clearing air-borne pollutants and detoxifying
- Clearing nasal cavities and sinuses
- Improving sleep
- Reducing stress, fatigue and jet-lag
- Reducing inflammation
- Increasing energy levels
Breathe It In is kid-friendly — they even have a children’s treatment room and special treatments for kids, including infants. Since my 20-month-old son, Zephyr, has allergies that cause ongoing chest congestion and spasmodic coughing, and my three-year-old daughter, Pearl, has had several ear and sinus infections, I brought both kids to Breathe It In to see if they could benefit from salt therapy. Having recently developed a mysterious and pesky case of eczema on my fingers, I was also hoping to benefit from it, myself. And having grown up with asthma, I’m always interested in anything that might improve my lungs’ health. According to the Breathe It In website, “Salt acts like an expectorant, accelerating mucus clearance and improving lung function while killing harmful bacteria and soothing the respiratory system.” Yep — salt therapy just seemed like something the whole family needed to check out.
Had I come in alone, I would have had my treatment in the adult room, but since I had the kids with me, we all had our treatment together in the children’s room. (Infants are allowed in the adult treatment room with a parent, but toddlers and young children receive their treatments in the kids’ room.) Both the kids’ and adults’ rooms are cozy, but large enough to accommodate about six people plus two more people in wheelchairs at one time.
Before heading into the kids’ treatment room, I peeked first into the adult room, and was immediately reminded of photos of Swedish ice bars: The room was a white cave with walls that looked like the inside of an old-fashioned icebox, as if they were covered in frost or freezer burn. Blue lights glowed softly at floor level, and the space had a distinctly calming and somehow futuristic vibe. I’d read that modern salt rooms are built to mimic Eastern European natural salt caves; if you’re curious, do a quick Internet search to see some really cool photos of the natural salt caverns, with stalactites of salt crystals dripping down from the ceilings.
The salt pumped into the rooms is pure 99.9% pharmaceutical-grade sodium-chloride. It’s antimicrobial, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory, which is why it soothes skin conditions like eczema as well as respiratory conditions like asthma, allergies and chest congestion. That’s also why you don’t have to worry if you’re in a therapy room next to someone who’s coughing; as far as I understood it, even if someone in the room is sick, others have a very low chance of catching their illness, since the pure salt neutralizes germs.
The children’s room was similar to the adult room, except it was filled with things to keep kids occupied for the duration of the 45-minute treatment: a slide, shovels to dig in the inches-deep rock salt covering the floor, sand toys, plastic dinosaurs, baby dolls, a kid-sized picnic table and chairs, and a comfortable lounge chair for an adult to sit in. There was even a TV connected to a Roku, for the kids to watch any show of their choice on Netflix.
We were told to try not to open the door during the treatment, since doing so breaks the vacuum seal and lets salt whoosh out into the hallway. I was a little concerned about that, knowing there’s nothing my kids like better than to open doors and explore. But staying busy in the room was easy, and the 45-minute treatment flew by. The kids loved digging in the rock salt (and tasting it, and dumping it onto the slide, and digging their feet into it…).
You don’t wear shoes into the treatment rooms; rather, you wear either your own socks or hospital-type booties provided by the spa. Other than that, there’s no special preparation needed for your treatment (although if you’re going someplace afterward, you may want to avoid wearing black, since the salt powder shows a bit on darker clothing; you should also remove any jewelry you wouldn’t want to wear into the ocean based on a potential reaction with salt water — although a salt therapy treatment has no tarnishing or corrosive effect on silver, gold or other common jewelry metals).
Once the door closes and the treatment begins, it’s very quiet inside the room. The walls are covered in salt, which the owners told me was hand-thrown after they applied salt glue, in a labor-intensive, four-day process. (Customers aren’t supposed to touch the walls, which are delicate and could crumble from too much contact.) A small generator near the door conducts the fine, silt-like salt into the room during the treatment. You can’t see the salt coming out, but you can taste it in the air and see it accumulate on the floor like a fine dust of powdered sugar.
The proprietors told us just to relax during the treatment, and to try to take some good, deep breaths to draw the salt deeply into our lungs. They told me the kids might have increased coughing and sneezing following their first treatment, due to the salt’s expectorating effect (bringing up the mucus in their lungs). Since my son was already experiencing a lot of chest congestion, I wasn’t surprised to hear him start coughing while we were in the treatment room, but I was surprised to hear my daughter suddenly develop a crunchy-sounding cough. She was bringing up mucus too! To me, that was a good thing, since it’s better to get it out than for it to stay in the lungs.
The kids enjoyed playing in the salt and also tasting it, which the owners said was fine: It is extremely pure and clean, so it isn’t harmful if some of it is ingested. At one point, my daughter stood directly in front of the duct where the salt comes out, staring into it; after a few moments, she turned away and began rubbing her eyes, which looked a bit watery and red for a few minutes. But she said they didn’t hurt, and they cleared up quickly. Other than that, I saw no indication that my kids felt any type of irritation from the salt at all, and I didn’t feel any, either.
My favorite part of the treatment came after it was over. I felt relaxed during the session, but afterward, I felt incredibly invigorated! I realized it was the same feeling I get when I’m at the ocean, breathing in the fresh salt air. That night, both children had productive coughs, but it was nothing that kept them up or seemed to make them uncomfortable. Best of all (for poor, sleep-deprived me), my son slept straight through the night for the first time in forever!! (For me, this is huge!! And I’m sure it was nice for him to get such good sleep, too!)
We loved our salt therapy session so much that we went back the very next day for another treatment. I’m a convert; I intend to take the children a few times a week for the next couple of weeks, because I can tell their chest congestion is already improving. To that end, I purchased a five-session pass for $85 — more on fees, packages and discounts below.
Breathe It In also sells pink Himalayan salt lamps and salt scrubs for use in the bath or after washing your hands.
Interested in visiting Breathe It In? It’s best to make an appointment, but Breathe It In also takes walk-ins (preferably on the hour, to coincide with appointment times and avoid opening treatment room doors during sessions).
Email: [email protected]
Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday: 10 AM – 5 PM
Wednesday: 11 AM – 7 PM
Friday: 9 AM – 5 PM
Saturday: 9 AM – 3 PM
Sunday: 12-5 PM
- Single session: $45
- Five-session pass: $175
- Monthly unlimited pass: $299
- Three-month membership: $149/month
- 12-month membership: $90/month
- Single session: $20
- Five-session pass: $85
- Monthly unlimited pass: $150
- Three-month membership: $70/month
- 12-month membership: $50/month
- Three-month membership: $189/month
- 12-month membership: $150/month
And yes, there’s a giveaway!
Breathe It In is giving away two children’s salt therapy sessions to two Free Fun in Austin readers (a $40 value each)! To enter the Breathe It In salt therapy giveaway, simply fill out the form below. By filling out the form, you are agreeing to the Sweepstakes Official Rules. Two winners will be selected at random on Monday, July 20, 2015, and contacted by email.
If you cannot see the form below, please visit the original post to enter.