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Everyone saw the movie where a sensitive (usually female) soul faints very often. In next scene there is always a maid bringing something and placing it under her lady’s nose, what makes her regain consciousness. The stuff in that little box is known as smelling salt, and if you believe the records every lady had one of these with her at any time, just in case.

Smelling Salts Use

These days, smelling salts are still in use, believe it or not. They are given to unconscious people, whether men or women, but also to athletes. Boxers knocked out during the match are frequently revived with these salts, as well as some other athletes before their competitions.

Salt of hartshorn, sal volatile or plain old ammonium carbonate is the main ingredient of smelling salts. This white crystal salt has a specific perfume and aroma. In the old days, ammonium carbonate was produced from the hooves or horns of a male deer, while modern production is much simpler and oriented to preserve wild life. Because of that, or perhaps due to lower costs of production, smelling salts are made by mixing water, ethanol and ammonia to get (NH4)2CO3H2O, which is a chemical formula of smelling salts.

The salts work by irritating the mucus membranes in the lungs, throat and nose, stimulating the breathing, and they are proven to work in unconscious people. Besides relieving unconsciousness, smelling salts are also well known remedy for headaches. They can increase the supply of oxygen to the head, and many patients experience significant relief inhaling these salts. The only action which is left to be either proven or dismissed is raise of alertness by inhalation of smelling salts. So far, there are no medical studies able to confirm that belief, and to make doctors recommend smelling salts for that purpose.

Possible Adverse Effects

Smelling salts are not often recognized to cause any medical problem in people using them. There are low chances that you will experience health issue using smelling salts sometimes, but as the precaution measure, long term usage is not advised.

Inhalation of these salts is sometimes known to provoke spinal injury or worsen the pre-existing condition, due to the inhalation reflex. The salts’ flames are also reported to cause burning in the mouth and nose, while high doses of smelling salts might be very dangerous because of the toxicity.

Athletes using smelling salts should be aware of the potential danger, for they could be masking some fatal injuries using these salts for instant recovery.

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