The actual science behind smelling salts and how it helps in injury recovery

smelling-salts-benefits

The background of smelling salts

Smelling salts are one of the most common items that are used for both medical and non-medical purposes. Many players use smelling salts to energize themselves during a match and they are not prohibited in football, hockey and powerlifting.

In many cases, they are also being used to revive and athlete who has received an injury, even though the detail of the same has not been verified scientifically. Most smelling salts are a mixture of ammonium carbonate and some perfumes which are sniffed by an individual.

Many trainers feel that smelling salts provide a burst of energy and also helps in improving focus. On the other hand, some feel that these salts have no beneficial health effects and when used on an unconscious person, these salts can cause involuntary reflex movements that may worsen the injury.

The history of smelling salts 

It was the Romans who started using smelling salts to “awaken” the senses and its use is mentioned by philosopher Pliny the Elder, in his work Natural History. Ammonium carbonate was also used by bakers prior to the advent of baking soda and was called “baker’s ammonia”.  

Smelling salts were largely used in the Victorian period by doctors and the actual use of “spirits of ammonia” date back to the 13th century. They were used to revive fatigued athletes or profusely beaten boxers by passing the salts under their nose and tickling their necks by feathers. In the later years, the use of smelling salts was banned in boxing. These salts were also used to revive women who have fainted and were termed as “lady revivers”.

During the Second World War, the British Red Cross and St. John Ambulance recommended smelling salts to be kept in first aid boxes. Present-day smelling salts are composed of diluted ammonia dissolved in a mixture of water and alcohol. They come in glass vials, which are broken, inhaled and discarded. Recent statistics indicate that around 80 percent of the NFL players make use of smelling salts.

While many doctors think that these salts cause a withdrawal symptom, long term adverse effects are yet to be discovered. In the past decade, many players have admitted that smelling salts raised their adrenaline levels by a large percentage. This is however debated by physicians due to lack of scientific evidence. Many consider this to be a form of a placebo effect.

How do smelling salts help in recovery

The oldest use of smelling salts was to help in the recovery of a patient who has fainted. Fainting is generally caused by the lack of blood flow in the brain which results in a short supply of oxygen. One of the major causes of fainting is low blood pressure which can be caused by a variety of factors. Another reason is related to breathing problems.

As a person falls down while fainting, that action in itself can help in the recovery process. This is because in the lying position, the heart does not need to act as hard to pump blood to the brain.

Concussion helmetIn cases when the patient is having breathing problems, smelling salts can be useful through their action. They reactivate the sympathetic nervous system, elevate blood pressure and heart rate. In many cases, fainting is caused by the stimulation of the vagus nerve and it cannot be treated by inhalation of smelling salts.

The caustic fumes of ammonia irritate the mucous linings of the air passage, which generates a breathing reflex due to an aggressive reaction of the body. This reflex makes the body breathe deeply so that the passage can be cleared from the stinging chemical. Deeper inhalations send more oxygen to the brain which helps in the recovery of the patient.

In general, for any patient who is feeling faint, the doctors advise them to lie down and breathe deeply so that the blood flow and oxygen levels can return to normal.

In many cases athletes use smelling salt to recover from an injury or to enhance alertness. It is not clear whether smelling salts can actually help in case of a concussion, as such an injury is not caused by oxygen deprivation. Whether the salt can enhance reaction time or has other cognitive benefits, is still something that needs to be scientifically established.

Myth_concussionPhysicians have explained the action of smelling salts as a form of chain reaction that starts with deeper breathing. The faster breathing rate elevates the heart rate so that the oxygen and carbon-di-oxide levels can be maintained correctly. This activates the sympathetic nervous system which controls the fight-or-flight response that takes over during emergency situations.

The entire chain of events can increase the overall strength of the athlete, even though it reduces the fine motor skills to some extent. If players feel more confident after inhaling smelling salts, it will definitely have a positive impact on their performance.

Are there any negative effects of smelling salts?

The use of smelling salts does not seem to have any short term or long term adverse effects on the body. Ammonia is a toxic and corrosive gas and when inhaled in large quantities, it can harm the body in many ways. Most commercially available versions of the salt direct the vial to be held at a distance of 10 to 15 centimetres from the nostril.

This is probably to minimise the burning effect produced on the nasal mucous membrane from the ammonia. The use of smelling salts to revive patients who have a brain injury can be more dangerous. Even if the patient is revived, the action of the salt may hide the seriousness of the injury which can result in complications down the line.

An athlete who is feeling dizzy after having taken a hard hit on the head and wants to continue playing by sniffing a salt is taking a big risk. Since it overrides the basic warning systems in the body, these salts have been banned in boxing.

Even though no studies have pointed out their negative effects, no studies have declared these salts safe either. Doctors feel that younger athletes are more at risk by using these salts rather than older and experienced ones. Younger athletes do not have the experience levels to sacrifice their motor skills in exchange for strength and are more likely to injure themselves.

The other adverse effect of this salt is to reduce decision-making skills, which can affect the overall performance of the athlete. This may make them push through the safety limits resulting in injuries. For an unconscious athlete, the jerky reaction that smelling salts generate can aggravate a head or spine injury.

With growing knowledge about injuries and concussions, the use of smelling salts in medicine has come down by a large extent. It is still a subject of debate whether it really has some benefits or not.

Are smelling salts legal?


The use of performance enhancing drugs in illegal is sports, but when it comes to smelling salts, the laws are not that strict. Ammonia is one performance enhancer that is not banned in sports and this is probably due to the lack of studies that establishes its effects. A whole range of powerlifters and weightlifters use these salts in the gym and even during competition.

This supposedly helps them to apply more strength and brings about an adrenaline rush for lifting heavier weights. The fact that these salts have no proven downsides, makes them a popular choice for many athletes.

The safe use of smelling salts

Like any other supplement, it is essential to use smelling salts in a safe manner, if you use them at all. The first thing to do is to consult your doctor so that you can be sure that you do not have any physical conditions that can be aggravated by the using of smelling salts.

Those with respiratory problems like asthma, should be careful before using smelling salts. Higher doses can result in headaches and allergic reactions, though rare, can occur in some cases. These salts should not be used randomly but in controlled situations, under the guidance of a health professional. Injudicious use of these salts may delay the right treatment of an injured athlete which is not recommended.

Many experts suggest the use of alternative methods like deep breathing techniques before a game to reduce stress levels and optimize performance. The salts should also be used in a manner that has been provided by the manufacturer. It is best to clarify doubts from a professional regarding the use of smelling salts before you start using them in search of benefits.

While smelling salts can be very risky to use a seriously injured person, they can be used under guidance to gain some energy before a sporting event.

Want to live a healthy lifestyle?

Subscribe to free FactDr newsletters.

REVAMP YOUR

If you're enjoying our website, we promise you'll absolutely love our new posts. Be the first one to get a copy!

Get factually correct, actionable tips delivered straight to your inbox once a week.

I want the latest scoop on :

We hate spam too. We will never share your email address with anyone. If you change your mind later, you can unsubscribe with just one click

By clicking Subscribe, I agree to the FactDr Terms & Conditions & Privacy Policy and understand that I may opt out of FactDr subscriptions at any time.

 

 

 

Trending Topics

ASTtest-liver
AST- Aspartate Aminotransferase Test AST test is a blood test that is used to measure the level of a…
Maltitol: Things you must know about this artificial sweetener Sugar alcohols are produced by fruits and vegetables. Maltitol is an artificially produced sugar alcohol…
autoimmune diseases facts
Autoimmune Diseases: Find out if your body is attacking you right now Did you know your body can harm itself? What are autoimmune diseases and why does…
passion fruit juice
Passion fruit: How one exotic fruit can help you fight infections and cancer! Passion fruit: Why does this exotic fruit have such an enticing name? And how can…
Vitamin K2: 8 reasons why you need this bone-building & cancer-fighting nutrient Vitamin K2 is claimed to be essential for your bone health, for reducing the risk…
diverticulitis diet
Diverticulitis diet: The right way to eat if you suffer from the disease Are you suffering from diverticultis but clueless about your diet ? Read this complete plan…
Top 6 remedies to treat a razor burn at home Symptoms of razor burn include bumps on the skin, redness, and irritation of the skin.…
Lectin: The common link of proteins between peas and people Lectins are a type of protein that are found majorly in legumes. Most people are…
anti-thyroglobulin antibody
Anti-Thyroglobulin Antibody test Anti-thyrogloubin antibody test measures the level of antibodies that attack the thyroid gland cells and…
Juice Plus: Can you really replace actual fruits with pills?  Juice Plus supplements intend to fill nutritional gaps present in our daily diet. But how…
abdominal-CT-scan- image
Abdominal CT scan Abdominal CT scan is a diagnostic imaging technique that provides a clear picture of the…
Chromium Picolinate: An essential mineral supplement for faster weight loss Did you know that about 1.6 million deaths were directly linked to diabetes globally? How…
TBHQ: A carcinogen lingering in your child’s favorite snacks TBHQ - Why you should shun the practice of eating instant noodles or microwave popcorn…
low fodmap plan
Troubled with IBS? Here’s a complete roadmap to the low FODMAP diet Leaky & inflammatory gut troubling you? No medicine bringing you relief from the pain? Why…
CLA: A breakthrough weight loss supplement with minimal side effects Tried every weight loss supplement in the market with no substantial gain? Why not try…
Pulmonary Function Tests Pulmonary function tests (PFT’s) are non-invasive breathing tests employed for diagnosing and monitoring lung diseases…
The real reason why you shouldn’t be eating ramen noodles Instant ramen noodles might be your go-to snack for your hunger pangs. But with each…
IGE test
IgE test – Immunoglobulin E IgE or immunoglobulin E test is a test that measures the level of IgE in…
eating disorder anorexia
Eating Disorders: Lifestyle choice or a psychological condition? Is eating disorder just a harmless bad habit? Or does it represent grim psychological disorders?…
Quinine: How gin and tonic came to be known as a potent health elixir The discovery of quinine-containing tree bark is sometimes considered the most serendipitous medical discovery of…
Poop chart: Top things you didn’t you your poop could reveal about you Bristol poop chart was designed during the 1990s in order to help doctors identify various…
maltodextrin sugar
Maltodextrin: What are the hidden health benefits of this food additive? Maltodextrin is one of the few food additives that has been relatively deemed safe. Many…
green poop causes
Green poop : What are the reasons and how can you correct it Ever sneak a peek down the toilet only to shockingly find green poop? Why does…
The science behind daith piercing: Can it really cure migraine? Since the ear has several pressure points, it is believed that daith piercing activates the…
Jicama: A fiber-rich tuber for your weight loss goals Pronouced as HEE-kah-ma, Jicama is the "new kid on the block" that has taken the…
cytomegalovirus iGG
Cytomegalovirus (CMV)- IgG Test The cytomegalovirus IgG is the immunoglobulin protein produced by our immune system when the body…
Milk Thistle skin
Milk Thistle: Find possible cures for fatal diseases in these purple blooms Milk thistle is well-known for treating liver conditions. However, did you know that it comes…
stevia side effects
Stevia: A healthy sugar substitute or yet another risky additive? Stevia is a plant native to South America.  It has been used as a natural…
serum electrolyte test
Serum Electrolyte If there is an electrolyte imbalance in the body, a serum electrolyte test will help…
HELICOBACTER_PYLORI---IgG
Helicobacter Pylori – IgG Test Helicobacter pylori IgG test is a blood, saliva, and urine test performed to determine if…
BRAT Diet: What is the right way to follow this diarrhea-relieving diet? BRAT diet, a simple diet consisting of just bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast, can help…
dance health benefits
5 unbelievable effects of dance on your overall health! You enjoy dancing, but did you know what else it does to your body? Dancing…
sleep deprivation
Don’t let your sleep deficit grow into memory loss or heart attack Why is sleep important for us? How could sleep deprivation harm you? We bet you…
Jackfruit: Slice your way into higher immunity, better digestion, & more… Native to the South East Asia, the jackfruit is a fruit brimming with thousands of…
Balneotherapy jacuzzi
5 things you didn’t know about balneotherapy and how you can do it at home Sauna baths have been popular since a long time. But how much more beneficial can…
bilirubin-test-result
Bilirubin Test Bilirubin is a substance produced in the body as a result of red blood cell…
nutritional yeast bread
Nutritional Yeast : How can a fungi culture be good for your body? Nutritional yeast: How a simple culture of fungi can transform your skin, digestion, immunity ,…
Salt dangers
Sodium chloride: The wonders and dangers of the simple table salt Sodium chloride is a salt containing sodium and chlorine ions at a 1:1 ratio. It…
Silicon Dioxide: How can a component of sand be essential to your wellbeing? Silicon is one of the most abundant elements in the nature. Find out how silicon…
Tamarind: The top health benefits of this staple Asian ingredient Did you know this sweet and sour pulpy fruit does more than just add a…
Stye : The best natural home remedies to ease the pain Styes developing inside the eyelid tend to be more painful whereas external styes are less…
Anti-CCP Test – Anti-Cyclic Citrullinated Peptide Anti-ccp or ACCP test is a blood test that is primarily employed to diagnose the…
hidden benefits walking
9 benefits of walking we bet you didn’t know! Did you know walking can be the miracle pill for eternal youth? Everyone knows walking…
Trisodium Phosphate: How a paint thinner made its way into your breakfast Ever thought how toxic chemicals find their way into our foods? How can they harm…
Oxidative Stress: Understanding the most lethal phenomenon happening in your body right now Free radicals cause damage to the body, which is known as oxidation.  The amount of…
Piaget stages: Do they accurately describe the way the human brain develops?  A common assumption was that children are less competent thinkers as compared to adults, but…
reflexology massage
Top reasons why you should go for a reflexology massage today Reflexology involves the application of pressure to your feet and hands to encourage self-healing. Could…
Helicobacter pylori IGA
Helicobacter Pylori – IgA Test The H.pylori IgA test is a blood test used to identify the level of IgA…
folate test
Folate test The Folate test is used to measure and monitor the levels of folic acid in…
Hydroquinone: Is it the best topical treatment for hyperpigmentation? Darkening of the skin due to high melanin levels is called hyperpigmentation.  Hydroquinone interferes with melanin…
shakeology woman
Meal replacement or protein drink? Learn all about Shakeology and its claims Shakeology from Beachbody claims to be the most suitable shake that can aid in weight…
Bronchoscopy procedure
Bronchoscopy Bronchoscopy is a procedure where in a scope is inserted into the lung pathway to…
rosacea-treatment--before-_-after
The best and safest ways to treat rosacea Rosacea is a skin disease that is characterized by reddish hives and rashes on the…
Bromelain: 11 reasons why you should start adding pineapple to your pizza! If you didn't love pineapples already, here are some of the top health benefits that…
GM Diet: The fastest way to lose weight or yet another hoax diet? General Motors started this trend of extreme dieting for 7 straight days to ensure its…
Chlorella: Therapeutic powers of the billion-year-old algae now within your reach Chlorella - A billion year old nutrient-rich algae that can potentially ward off cancers and…
GERD heartburn
Heartburn: What are the exact symptoms and the best home remedies? There are easy home remedies for heartburn, which not only acts as a first aid…
ketoacidosis diabetes
HB1Ac Test HB1Ac test is an important blood test that is used to measure the levels of…
blood elements analysis
Blood Element Analysis Test A blood element analysis is a blood test performed to measure the level of toxic…
random blood sugar test
Random Blood Sugar Test The random blood sugar or RBS test is a blood test prescribed mainly to check…
lifestyle diseases
The Big 5 lifestyle diseases: How your everyday living might be killing you You'd be shocked to know how unhealthy and potentially fatal your everyday routine could be.…
fitness routine fun
10 fantastic ways to make your fitness routine more fun! Are you too bored to exercise? Do you avoid gym cause it's too monotonous? Looking…
occupational hazards types
Occupational Hazards: How to vouch for your health at your workplace Occupational hazards affect millions worldwide. Chemical spills, faulty wires, deadly pathogen, and work-stress can happen…
Is bronchitis contagious? And how to prevent this infection? It is acute bronchitis that is contagious which means you can contract it from another…
Vagus nerve: 7 health benefits of stimulating the “gut-brain” connection As a matter of fact, there are two vagus nerves namely the left and the…
Oxalates: How healthy greens can sometimes be bad news for your kidneys Oxalates are compounds present in a majority of healthy foods. However, at times an overconsumption…
bradycardia fainting
What does hypoglycemia look like when you don’t have diabetes? Hypoglycemia is not just a disease that co-occurs with diabetes. Non-diabetics could also become hypoglycemic.…
ureteroscopy
Ureteroscopy Ureteroscopy is the diagnostic procedure which is used for the detection of the kidney stones…
stress depressed anxiety
Are you depressed or just stressed? Know when to see a doctor Why are some people more anxious than others? Is being depressed the same as feeling…
yoga health benefits
How to practice yoga for astounding health benefits Can a 5000-year-old system be the ultimate body healer? Did you know yoga can make…
sugar toxic health
Sugar: 7 new shocking truths revealed about the sweet poison Can drinking soda bring you closer to death? Is sugar slowly poisoning you and your…
back pain relief
Don’t choose pain: 10 truths about your back ache (and how to get relief) Back pain is one of the most common ailments in the world. Almost 80% of…
Vitamin B12: The unknown repercussions of this nutrient deficiency Vitamin B12 is also known as cobalamine; involved in the development of red blood cells…
Cottage cheese: What can you find in this healthy chunk of fresh milk cheese? Love cheese but scared of putting on extra pounds? With cottage cheese, you can get…
How do neutrophils protect you from fatal bacterial attacks? During an infection, certain enzymes alert the mature neutrophils.  Neutrophils then travel through the bloodstream…
Eustachian Tube : Functions and top home remedies to prevent its infection Pressure equalization, mucus drainage and protecting the middle ear from bacteria and viruses are the…
General adaptation syndrome: Understanding stress, one step at a time The struggle of the body to produce hormones during a stressful situation is the main…
Bubble Tea: Bubbling with nutrition or a hidden sugar mine? The tapioca pearls present in the tea looks like bubbles and hence the name bubble…
GGt test
GGT – Gamma-Glutamyl Transferase Test GGT or gammaglutamyl transferase test is a liver function test that is used to detect…
rubella IgG test
Rubella IgG Test The rubella IgG test is a blood test that checks for the rubella virus IgG…
shiitake mushrooms healthy
What are Shiitake Mushrooms and why should you eat them? Shiitake Mushrooms are well known for their smoky and robust taste. However, did you know…
Fluoride: An indispensible mineral or a potential toxin ? Fluoride, the main ingredient of toothpaste, has shown a great potential as a cleanser. However,…
antibiotic resistance
Antibiotic Resistance: How common diseases become deadly Can a cold kill you? How important is to get a flu shot? Why do…
castor oil hair
Castor oil : A vitamin-rich oil for shiny locks and healthy bowels Castor oil bestows unlimited benefits, whether you use it for your hair or skin. But…
Horny Goat Weed: Can it improve libido in human beings too? This plant got its name as Horny Goat Weed when one of the goats feeding…
Erythritol: A healthy sugar substitute or yet another marketing ploy? Erythritol is a popular choice of a healthy alternative sweetening agent in foods. But how…
Experts reveal the safest ways to perform an enema at home The idea of pushing some up your rectal area might make you queasy but an…
What is the right way to take a pregnancy test? A pregnancy test is undertaken to determine if you have conceived. A home pregnancy test…
Top natural diuretics: The instant benefits you can get from nature’s water pills Since diuretic drugs are known to cause side effects, it is better to choose a…
How to scrub away stress and fatigue with an Epsom salt bath? Epsom salt is a popular home remedy for many skin ailments. Though there is a…
What is Qigong and how can it help you channelize you inner “Qi”? Qigong is an integrated way of performing a traditional exercise regimen that can help in…
diabetes symptoms in women
FBS Test – Fasting Blood Sugar FBS or fasting blood sugar test is a blood test that is used to determine…
CT-scan-machine
CT – Computed Tomography Scan CT scan or computed tomography scan is an diagnostic imaging technique where cross-sectional images of…
beta 2 glycoprotein 1 IgG
Beta 2 Glycoprotein 1 IgG Beta 2 glycoprotein 1 antibody test involves detecting and measuring the presence of the IgG…
APL IgM Test
Antiphospholipid Antibody(APL)-IgM test The antiphospholipid antibodies are a specific protein produced by the body and directed against the…
turmeric skin
We bet you didn’t know that turmeric could be this beneficial! Did you know that turmeric, a humble ingredient found in most Indian kitchens could cure…
paleo keto diet
Paleo vs. Keto: Which diet plan is best suited for your body goals? Is eating like a caveman the right way to go? Can you really eat fats…
Pumpkin Seeds: Why pumpkins are more than just for pies! Pumpkins have been long associated with Halloween carvings and delicious pies. But did you know…
improve digestion weight loss
Power up your gut: 8 proven steps on how to improve your digestion Did you know you have a colony of bacteria in your gut that help you…
High Fiber Diet – Fire up your fiber intake for these health benefits! Regular bowels, healthy detox, higher immunity, and guaranteed weight loss - a high fiber diet…
Drinking water benefits
8 reasons why you should grab a bottle of water now! Did you know you don't have to be thirsty for hours to be dehydrated?You could…
ashwagandha brain
Ashwagandha: The best-kept secret of Ayurveda now revealed! Ashwagandha literally means "smell of horse". Don't get bogged down by that one tiny detail…
Grapeseed Oil: Find out how to use this oil without any side-effects Grapes are known for their delicious fresh taste and the fact that they make wine…
Dates: The complete list of instant health benefits this dry fruit can bestow Why you should regularly go for dates? Because, these small bulbs of healthy goodness are…
Love tea, hate tannins? Rooibos tea is just what you need The market is brimming with a multitude of herbal teas. But what makes rooibos tea…
Hibiscus: Nourish your beauty and health with these vibrant blooms Hibiscus is a trumpet shaped flower found abundantly in tropical countries. It has been historically…
Microneedling: Does this cosmetic procedure live up to the hype? Is microneedling a safe and painless procedure? How can pricking your skin with a series…
How accurate is the hair follicle drug test? Hair follicle drug test is one of the best ways to identify drug use in…
These are the top foods to increase your hemoglobin count It is important to add iron-rich foods into your diet in order to increase hemoglobin. Deficiency…
POSTPRANDIAL-BLOOD-SUGAR
Post-Prandial Blood Sugar Postprandial blood sugar test is an important diabetes diagnosing tool. This simple blood test measure…
Chest X-Ray A chest x-ray is a diagnostic test that uses x-rays to visualize the structures inside…
Vitamin-D-blood-test
25-Hydroxy Vitamin D test 25-hydroxy Vitamin D test is a blood test used to measure the level of vitamin…
BoneMarrow-Biopsy
Bone Marrow Biopsy Bone marrow biopsy is a diagnostic procedure where a small amount of bone marrow is…
Bloodtestalbumin
Albumin Test Albumin test or blood serum test is a liver function test that measures the amount…
DHEAS test
DHEA Sulfate (DHEAS) Test DHEAS or DHEA Sulfate test is prescribed if an individual shows symptoms of abnormal adrenal…
Glucose-6-Phosphate Dehydrogenase (G6PD) test Glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD) is an enzyme that is found in every cell of the body…
lipoprotein A
Lipoprotein (A) Test Lipoprotein (A) test is used to measure and monitor the levels of LDL(Low-Density Lipoprotein) in…
cancer facts
8 hard-hitting truths no one tells you about cancer Did you know that 1.5 million new cases of cancer are reported every year? Can…
alcohol toxic
7 startling facts that will make you quit alcohol today Does drinking really make you friendly and happy? How many calories does a can of…
boost immunity tips
Step up your defence: 15 proven tips on how to boost your immunity Want to naturally build up a stronger immunity? Tired of frequent colds and runny nose?You…
bananas exercise
10 health reasons why you should go “bananas” over bananas! Bananas:The world's most popular fruit comes with a host of unbelievable health benefits. Find out…
dandelion health benefits
Dandelion: Little parachutes of health and wellness for your whole body Dandelions are not just bright looking blossoms that cheer your mind. These are powerpacked with…
iron food shellfish
Iron-Rich Foods: Eat these foods to keep fatigue and anemia away! How to ensure a muscles as strong as iron? Eat iron rich foods ! Iron…

Related Posts

Want to live a healthy lifestyle?

Subscribe to free FactDr newsletters.

REVAMP YOUR

If you're enjoying our website, we promise you'll absolutely love our new posts. Be the first one to get a copy!

Get factually correct, actionable tips delivered straight to your inbox once a week.

I want the latest scoop on :

We hate spam too. We will never share your email address with anyone. If you change your mind later, you can unsubscribe with just one click

By clicking Subscribe, I agree to the FactDr Terms & Conditions & Privacy Policy and understand that I may opt out of FactDr subscriptions at any time.