Here's a sensation I have never had before - and certainly not during a medical treatment: I feel like a fishmonger. I am dressed in a crisp white overall, my hair is tucked away inside a hygienic hair net, and every time I breathe in, a distinct whiff of the ocean enters my lungs.
But it's not fish around me - it's salt. Everywhere. On the floor, on the walls, in the air. I am sitting in this country's first fully functioning 'salt cave'. And I'm here in an effort to cure my allergy.
I suffer from allergic rhinitis. It's not a life-threatening condition, but it is a life-irritating one. It is like having hay fever all year round. At its worst (when I was in my teens), I would sneeze 20 or 30 times non-stop, my nose would run all day and I'd be blocked up as if I had a bad cold. Though the symptoms 25 years later are much less severe, I'll often find myself sneezing in the evenings and sniffing in bed as I try to get to sleep.
My rhinitis - an inflammation of the lining of the nasal passage - also makes me snore. And every morning I cough for a few minutes to dislodge the mucus that has collected at the back of my throat overnight. Lovely.
After so many years, I am used to all this and it doesn't bother me too much. But my wife, who has endured a mere eight years of the bedtime sniffing and snorting, is rather less enamoured of it. So when things are particularly bad, I take an antihistamine tablet, which eases the symptoms. But might there be a drug-free treatment that could cure me? That's the alluring claim made by Sofia Benke, a glamorous Hungarian who has just opened the Salt Cave in South London.
In Eastern Europe, people with respiratory problems have long sought relief in salt caves - either real or artificial. Benke's 'cave' has been created in the back room of a converted church. (Before she created her white, bright clinic, the space had been used for meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous and for kindergarten groups.) You thought salt was bad for you? Not here, it's not.
Benke, who had been working as an international recruitment consultant in the City of London, opened the cave in January after she began suffering from respiratory problems herself.
Source - Daily Mail