This is a question I’ve seen more often than almost any other across forums, blogs, and even our own users here on Smellingsalts.org.
The short answer is: No, smelling salts are not dangerous.
If that’s enough of an explanation for you, then check out my favorite smelling salt on amazon.
Otherwise, the long answer is a bit more complicated. Why? Because anything in excess can become dangerous, heck over-hydrating can cause health problems and even death. To get into this explanation a bit, let me give some background on where this question comes from.
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What Do Smelling Salts Do?
Smelling salts are a chemical compound that releases small amounts of ammonia gas, which essentially jump starts your body’s nervous system. The ammonia causes blood vessels in your nasal passages to expand providing an instant increase in oxygen to your brain meaning an instantaneous boost of alertness and power. The most common uses I’ve seen are for heavy lifters and contact sports like hockey or football. They are completely safe and have been used for years in professional and college level sports.
If you’re looking for an energy boost and want to try them out, I’d suggest buying from Amazon. By far the cheapest and I’ve found them as low as 25 cents per ampule.
Smelling Salts, Dangerous?
As I said, in moderation, smelling salts are perfectly safe. That said, a weight lifter should not take another dose after each lift. My suggestion would be to keep their use to competition and/or one-rep maxes (Yes, they are perfectly legal in every competition I’ve heard of). Why limit their use? Two reasons:
- They smell terrible and repeated use can give you a headache! But so can high doses of oxygen (see a pattern here?)
- Your body can actually adjust to the knee-jerk reaction and lessen the effect that the smelling salts have on your performance.
Personally, I’ve never felt one side-effect from the use of smelling salts. I do use them regularly, but I stick to the levels that I’ve explained above. I have heard of people getting runny noses and headaches after using them for every lift in their workout, however, I don’t see the point in relying on it to that extent anyways.
Not Dangerous? Why Are Smelling Salts Banned In Boxing?
Smelling salts are banned in several sports (like boxing) and highly avoided in several situations. The reason for this is not at all because they are dangerous by themselves. What can be dangerous is the situation in which they are used. Every package explicitly says to use “only as directed” as with any other medically related product.
In boxing smelling salts used to be used to bring a boxer back from the edge of unconsciousness after being beaten to a pulp. Let’s look at this logically. If a fighter needs an ammonia inhalant to stay alert and conscious, they do not belong in the ring. The worst thing you can do to anyone with a concussion or other head injuries is hit them more. THAT is why salts have been outlawed from boxing.
Football actually still allows ammonia inhalants in certain use cases. What is not allowed, or smart at all, is using smelling salts on players who have been knocked unconscious from a hit. Why? Because in many of these cases spinal unseen spinal injuries can be present and the worst thing you can do with a spinal injury is jerk your neck sharply as you abruptly wake up from smelling salts. Outside of this, smelling salts are used frequently between plays to maintain alertness and focus during gameplay.
Anyways, if you are interested in trying them out yourself, you can find them here on Amazon or get more info on buying them here.