15 May 2024

Maria Blasi breathes easier after uncovering salty treatment for respiratory conditions

| Kellie O'Brien
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Illawarra Salt Therapy

Kayley Rees’ twin daughters inside the salt therapy room in Fairy Meadow. Photo: Supplied.

Maria Blasi is the first to admit she was sceptical when she heard about salt therapy as a possible treatment option for her father’s chronic lung disease.

While it dates back to medieval times, alternative health and wellness treatment salt therapy, also known as halotherapy or speleotherapy, has grown in popularity in Australia over the past decade to relieve symptoms of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) through to asthma.

“The Illawarra is just a region high with patients with COPD and asthma,” Maria said.

“They’re both horrible things to have, because if you can’t breathe, you can’t do anything.”

Maria said to add to this, this year there was a surge in respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) cases in the Illawarra and cold and flu season had started earlier than usual.

She said while salt therapy didn’t cure COPD and other respiratory issues, it might help many have a better quality of life.

Lung Foundation Australia spokesperson Anna Hilton recommended people with a lung condition should exercise caution in the use of salt therapies and advised discussing this with a GP or respiratory specialist.

“While some people may anecdotally report salt therapy as beneficial in easing their respiratory symptoms, there has not yet been enough high-quality research undertaken in this field to make a recommendation for salt therapy as an evidence-based intervention for people with chronic respiratory conditions,” Anna said.

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Maria’s father had COPD and had been in hospital for seven weeks when on Christmas Eve the doctor told her nothing could be done for him and to take him home.

“To me, it wasn’t something terminal, so I couldn’t understand why they couldn’t give him something to make him better,” she said.

At home, her father was put on oxygen but remained unwell.

“That following week, there was a story on A Current Affair on salt therapy, and I was very sceptical,” she said.

“I thought, he’d been in hospital for seven weeks, seen the best doctors, had intravenous antibiotics, oral antibiotics, massive doses of steroids and this man’s not better, ‘What the hell is salt going to do for him?’”

She decided to “stop my pessimism” and give it a go, with Bondi being the closest clinic.

“We got an extra 11 years out of Dad,” she said.

Michele Torchia

101-year-old Michele Torchia has been visiting Illawarra Salt Therapy since it opened in 2012 and celebrating his birthdays with its owner Maria Blasi. Photo: Supplied.

After much research and training, it prompted Maria to set up her own salt therapy room, Fairy Meadow holistic health service Illawarra Salt Therapy.

She now offers relief to patients with asthma, eczema, hay fever and allergies, sinus infections, croup, influenza, bronchiolitis and COPD.

That includes 101-year-old Michele Torchia, who has been visiting for his COPD since the doors opened in 2012.

“My youngest patient was nine days old and my eldest patient is 101 years old, and my 101 [-year-old] patient has been coming for the entire 11 years we’ve been here,” she said.

Kayley Rees is mum to six-year-old twins, with one of the twins, Charli, rushed to hospital following an asthma attack, where she was then put on steroids.

Kayley said the twins had seen an improvement in their lung strength since visiting the clinic.

“Charli no longer needs to rely on asthma preventers or medication, which has meant she can return back to sport and activities without stress and do everything an energetic six-year-old should be able to do,” Kayley said.

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Maria said salt therapy was an antiviral and antibacterial treatment which could naturally treat the “trail left behind by RSV” and other viral infections, like persistent coughs, by opening up the airways and breaking down phlegm or congestion.

She said in the past two months she had seen almost 100 children and adults suffering from RSV.

Cases of RSV were surpassing the number of COVID-19 and flu cases, with a nine per cent increase in notifications of RSV cases in NSW in the last week of April, according to NSW Health.

“We have seen an influx of RSV cases, especially children battling with the horrific condition,” Maria said.

“It’s just so much worse than COVID because it does linger for quite a while.”

Maria said salt therapy included sitting in a room where pharmaceutical grade salts were used.

To learn more about salt therapy, visit Illawarra Salt Therapy in Fairy Meadow.

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