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Is COVID-19 helping highlight halotherapy’s potential respiratory benefits?

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As a wave of spas reopen around the world, it’s clear the industry is going to need to be creative to cater to new consumer needs which will likely focus on prioritising health.

In light of this, halotherapy – also known as salt therapy – has risen to the fore as a potential new treatment trend, due to its antimicrobial and antibacterial properties, along with scientific research supporting that regular use can both prevent contraction and relieve symptoms of acute respiratory viral infections.

One research paper research paper from 2014 demonstrates that halotherapy is capable of triggering an anti-inflammatory response in people with respiratory conditions – which is relevant because one of the major symptoms associated with COVID-19 is the influx of cytokine storm, which is a hyperinflammatory condition caused by an overactive immune system.

Cytokine storm can severely damage lungs and lead to acute respiratory distress syndrome and death in patients – and seems to be what is killing a majority of COVID-19 patients.

Moreover, halotherapy offers the added benefit of requiring little to no therapist contact, which in a post-COVID-19 world is likely to become a popular type of treatment for spa businesses.

Harking from Poland, halotherapy is typically offered as a dry treatment using a halogenerator to produce pharmaceutical-grade particles of salt for inhalation in an environment which mimics a salt cave microclimate with dry, cold conditions and no humidity.

Alternatively, it can also be carried out through wet methods such as salt-water baths and pools, as well as flotation tanks.

The Global Wellness Institute has an initiative dedicated to the method, called Exploring Salt and Halotherapy – with industry figures on board, including Steve Spiro of Global Halotherapy Solutions and Saltability’s Ann Brown – which was recently the subject of an industry webinar.

During the session, medical spa owner and Halotherapy Solutions board advisor, Lisa Semerly, highlighted that salt therapy will be attractive to operators because it doesn’t require labour costs and there’s an accelerated return on investment, as well as having an expansive potential target audience.

“Even before COVID-19, halotherapy was gaining momentum because respiratory illness is a growing epidemic – salt therapy is capable of reducing the length and effect of some respiratory symptoms and helps reduce inflammation in the sinuses and throughout the airway.

“It can also help with stress reduction, improve overall immune response, ease dermatological conditions and can help athletes improve lung function and increase oxygen saturation to aid recovery,” she said.

Dr Raleigh Duncan, chair and founder of Clearlight Infrared Saunas, also proposed that combining infra-red sauna therapy and halotherapy could become a popular trend as the pairing makes for an effective complementary treatment for respiratory viruses.

It is already widely accepted and researched that sauna use has an array of health benefits, in particular for respiratory health, as highlighted by Professor Marc Cohen in a recent paper highlighting that using heat-stress could actually be advantageous in the prevention of COVID-19 and in helping those suffering from the virus – both physiologically and psychologically.

The basis of combining the therapies rests on the fact that the sauna’s dry and warm air will allow for deeper levels of penetration and better absorbency of the salt particles in the bronchi and distal airways.

Following the global focus on health initiated by COVID-19, halotherapy looks set to boom as it can provide a multi-purpose wellness treatment, capable of supporting and protecting respiratory health while also providing a relaxing spa experience with minimal contact and labour-costs.

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As a wave of spas reopen around the world, it’s clear the industry is going to need to be creative to cater to new consumer needs which will likely focus on prioritising health.
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