Smelling Salts – Uses, Side Effects, Safety Tips, and Its Alternatives

Are you feel lazy in the mornings? A product can awake you with a rapid fast. You just have to sniff it. The product is Smelling Salts.

With this article, we try to give you authentic information about smelling salt including its introduction, mechanism of action, uses, side effects, safety tips, and alternatives of it.

What are Smelling Salts?

What are Smelling Salts?

Smelling salts are a chemical combination of ammonium carbonate with some fragrancing agents. Traditionally, it used to restore or stimulate people’s senses.

In addition, smelling salts also named as ammonia inhalant, the spirit of hartshorn or sal volatile, and ammonia salts. Moreover, concentrated ammonia is toxic in nature but in smelling salts, their concentration is very low.

However, concentrated ammonia has a powerful stink that is like tear gas which almost restores all senses. And that’s the reason why even athletes use these salts for getting an extra boost before their games.

Additionally, nowadays, all the smelling salt products are prepared from actually aromatic spirits of ammonia— a mixture of ammonia carbonate, water, and alcohol.

More About Ammonium Carbonate

Ammonium carbonate—a colorless crystalline solid with a chemical formula ((NH4)2CO3). For instance, we all use ammonium carbonate products in our daily life.

Products such as baking soda and baking powder use ammonium carbonate as the predecessor. In addition, they are also used in cough syrups.

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History and Development of Smelling Salts

History and Development of Smelling Salts

Smelling salt is not just the product of the 20th century. But in the past, they were used to revive people from faintness or dizziness. For instance, there is evidence that concludes that the ancient Romans (13th century) uses these salts.

However, in the 17th century, smelling salt gets its other popular name— Hartshorn. This is because they extract ammonia from a harts’ (a type of deer) horns and hooves.

But its popularity seeks more in the Victorian era. Here, smelling salt is dissolved with other chemicals such as perfumes or alcohols. And, its primary uses to revive the dizziness or fainting of women.

During the Second World War, these salts became widely recommended, as even, the British Red Cross and St. John Ambulance had advised storing smelling salts in their first aid boxes.

How does Smelling Salt work?

As stated earlier, smelling salts are used as a stimulant to relieve faintness or swooning. It works because these salts release ammonia gas (NH3) that irritates the membranes of the nose and lungs.

Finally, it causes a breathing reflex that eventually creates pressure in the nasal cavity which also triggers the closing of eyes. Now, this breathing reflex changes the normal sluggish breathing to higher breathing speed.

Altogether, it allows more oxygen to get absorbed by the lungs which finally nurture the brain. The action doesn’t resist to the brain but also a high respiration and heart rate is seen.

This all sums up to regain your consciousness and make you active and alert.

How can You Use Smelling Salt safely?

How can you use Smelling Salt safely?

Smelling salts are approved by many authorities but still if you don’t know the correct way of using it, you might get yourself in some medical complications.

This is how you can take smelling salt shots:

1. Hold it for at least 10 centimeters away from your nose.

2. Now, crush the salt pack in the middle which starts releasing ammonia. In general, there is a “crush-up” marker with two arrows pointing to the middle bar. And you should crush the salt bar only once.

Smelling Salts in Sports

The primary use of smelling salts is to revive someone who has fainted, passed out, or suffered a head injury.

Today, the use of smelling salts are trending in many sports, such as football, boxing, and hockey. However, it provides a temporary boost of energy, makes them more alert, performs better, and increases their overall strength.

How to Make your own Smelling Salt (Non-Ammonia)?

How to Make your own Smelling Salt (Non-Ammonia)?

With the following steps, you can get a recipe for making your own smelling salt. Just follow them;

1. Preparing the Salt Base: Take about 10-20 grams of Epsom salt and half the amount of seas salt. And mixed it thoroughly. This salt mixture acts as a base to add other ingredients.

2. Preparing the Essential Oil Blend: Choose one or a pair of essential oils based on what you are aiming for them to do. For example: as a stress reliever, you can use floral or woodsy fragrance. For freshness, you can use earthy or minty fragrance.

And if you want some alertness, you can use some spicy or camphorous smelling essential oils. At last, the choice is only yours.

3. Mixing the Blended Oil and Salt Base: With a dropper, add 6 to 8 drops of your essential oil (or blend oil mixture) to the salts’ mixtures.

4. Packaging the Blended Mix: To keep the aura safe, it should be packed in an airtight capsule. But many people prefer to have them in a bowl as the room freshener.

Side Effects of Smelling Salts

Side Effects of Smelling Salt

Short-Term Side Effects

1. Feeling of having Vertigo: They are often common to teenagers. However, this condition can surpass in a few seconds, and the person quickly regains his consciousness.

2. Coughing: In a few cases, especially the first time user could get a cough.

3. Burning sensation in the eyes: Ammonia is also an eye irritant. And if the salt packet is held near to face then your eyes might starts having some burning sensation.

Note: Smelling salt is not a muscle strength enhancer but a person feels strengthened because of its psychological effects of increased focus.

Long-term Side Effects

These are the following long term side effects of these ammonia salts:

1. Overuse can sometimes cause headaches and allergic reaction which is again very rare.

2. A frequently and longer use of these irritant salts can damage the nasal membranes.

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Precaution Related to Smelling Salts

precautions while using smelling salts img

There is no harm to using smelling salt but you should use the following precautions while using these salts.

1. For better results, keeping smelling salt in between 10 and 15 cm from the nose. This would decrease any risk of getting too much burning sensation in nasal passages.

2. We highly recommend not to use smelling salts, if you have any respiratory issues (such as asthma). Moreover, other diseases like a brain tumor, head injury, pneumonia, cancer, or any traumatic conditions.

3. Keep the smelling packets away from children’s reach because the child may try to eat. And these small packets get easily swollen by kids. Additionally, crushed smelling salt packet near the mouth of a child could generate severe coughing and eye irritation.

4. Don’t even try to add more ammonia or inhale ammonia gas because it can cause permanent lung damage.

And in any of the above cases, if you feel need to consult a doctor then without any second thought consult them.

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Let’s look at the short summary on smelling salts.

Smelling salts are ammonia-based salts that have been used for centuries to retrieve a person’s faintness to alertness. But now, any people who have to need to get awareness and alertness can take it. In addition, smelling salts becomes a common practice by athletes before a bigger game. But there’s no evidence that can support them as enhanced athletic power.

While smelling salts are generally safe only if you take it in the right way. Therefore, you should follow the “precaution guidelines”— present on each smelling salts packet. Otherwise, you can use a general rule of using them for at least 10 to 15 cm away from your face.

However, one can face some side-effects like feeling vertigo, eye irritation, nasal cavity irritation, and coughing.

General FAQ

Are smelling salts bad for you?

Ans. In most smelling salts, ammonia is present which is toxic in nature. Even its too much-diluted form can cause serve irritation of nose and lungs, and very rarely asphyxiation death.

Why do people use smelling salts?

Ans. People generally use smelling salts to increase their alertness and focus due to the irritation in a person’s nasal cavity.

How do smelling salts wake you up?

Ans. When you sniff these salts, the component such as ammonia aggressively reacts with the nasal inner lying. This reaction brought gas irritation which is a form of sharp inhalation reflex that brings more air and oxygen to the body. And, this is how it works.

How many times can you use smelling salts?

Ans. As it is nostrils and lungs irritant, one should not use them too often. Because frequent usage can cause dependency which again not that effective if you use it regularly for waking yourself.

Why are smelling salts banned in boxing?

Ans. This is because in boxing there is a higher chance of getting head injuries. And if the person had already used smelling salts then it might be the cause of some other complications.

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