Smelling Salts: Are They Dangerous To Use?

smelling salts not dangerousThis is a question I’ve seen more often than almost any other across forums, blogs, and even our own users here on
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.

Smelling Salts are Rated 4.7 Stars
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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:

  1. They smell terrible and repeated use can give you a headache! But so can high doses of oxygen (see a pattern here?)
  2. 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.

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  1. 8 years ago

    I have always wondered about smeeling salts and all the research I have done leads me to that they are safe to use I want to use them so I can get stronger in the weight room so I can perform better on the football field do they really help that much???

    • 8 years ago
      Carl Lombard

      I use them myself and its pretty much the equivalent of smacking yourself across the face (A little easier logistically :))
      It’s not going to be any “double your 1RM” magic, but I find it’s a great option especially on the days I’m laggin nehind for whatever reason. Just don’t need to be hitting it every rep. I use it to get started after my warm up or just before big lifts.

  2. 8 years ago
    Angel Haze

    I’m doing some research for my fantasy book and I’m looking around to see what smelling salts are like, but am only finding vague answers. What does it smell like? What does it feel like once you inhale? My main character is drugged and kidnapped and we were thinking of using smelling salts to rouse him but I need to know what it would be like from his point of view to wake up to that. Any details would be greatly appreciated.

    • 8 years ago
      Jeff Kingston

      Well, it smells like bleach, because that’s basically what it is. When you inhale it smells terrible and the best way I can describe the reaction is if you were sleeping at night and someone blew up a balloon right next to your head (the jerking you out of your sleep feeling). The reaction I’ve usually gotten when I let someone try it that doesn’t know what it is is that they breathe in too hard and basically choke on the smell. Never actually used it to be woken up though so I can’t give any more specific details on that experience :)

    • 8 years ago

      Hi, Angel Haze:
      Smelling salts are ammonia. They smell a little like very strong Windex, but I mean *very* strong.
      If you hold it too close to your nose and breathe in too deeply, your head jerks back involuntarily and your sinuses sting.
      It’s great.
      It makes you wake up if you’re drowsy, because of elevated circulation brought on, I believe, by accelerated heart rate.
      Some (the weaker kind) are scented with lemon and, I think, thyme; it adds to the overall effect, but I like the strong straight-ammonia kind.
      Mind you, this is not the ammonia used to clean floors. It’s a much purer form, without the detergent in cleaning ammonia. Do not use cleaning ammonia or you will harm yourself.
      I hope this helps!

  3. 8 years ago

    It might be prudent to mention that they can cause an elevation in blood pressure. I know you gym guys love ‘em, and more power to you, but the reality is the increased blood pressure can be dangerous for some. 

    • 8 years ago
      Jeff Kingston

      That’s true. If you’ve got any existing blood pressure issues you’d probably want to be careful (not that you shouldn’t anyways). The increased blood pressure comes along with the increased blood circulation and would be temporary. As long as you aren’t using them a couple times an hour all day though, it wouldn’t chronically increase your BP (Unless someone can find something saying otherwise). Just my 2 cents.


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