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The term "mineral baths" refers to baths that employ the use of mineral solutions, are therapeutic and are based on the health benefits that have been observed from bathing in mineral springs. Mineral springs, also called hot springs, are geothermal waters and can be found in all regions of the world. Historic writings reveal that many ancient cultures considered hot springs as healing waters for a variety of ailments. Many spas and health resorts have been constructed very close to such sites and offer their patrons the luxury of taking mineral baths. Water temperature, dissolved gases, minerals and mud are common components of mineral baths.
Although balneology, the study of the therapeutic effects of bathing, is widely practiced in many European countries, it is not as popular in other parts of the world. For example, in the United States, most mineral baths are taken at resorts or expensive spas as a form of relaxation rather than as a health treatment. People who are interested in incorporating therapeutic baths into an all-natural health treatment plan should first consult with their physician. Water at high temperatures in a bath might aggravate conditions such as cardiovascular disease and are not recommended for pregnant women. It is equally important for people interested in mineral baths to remember that the water should never be consumed, because it can contain toxic substances.
Some of the conditions for which mineral baths are recommended include eczema, stiff and inflamed joints and, if arsenic is in the water, infections caused by fungi. Medical doctors sometimes disapprove of taking mineral baths at spas and resorts because of the necessary addition of chlorine to the water. There are other precautions that many doctors also recommend to be taken, such as refraining from putting one's head under the water. Naegleria, a free-swimming amoeba, is present in several mineral springs and could enter the body through the nose if the head is submerged. If the amoeba finds its way to the brain, a potentially fatal condition known as Primary Amoebic Meningoencephalitis (PAM) could develop.
Generally, the most natural way to enjoy mineral baths for relaxation or physical health benefits is by bathing in a natural hot spring. This does not mean that all risks are removed, because some springs contain hydrogen sulfide, which can be toxic in high amounts and irritate the skin. Hydrogen sulfide emits a smell of rotten eggs and therefore might be detectable. A good rule of thumb is to refrain from bathing in even a natural hot spring if there are any cuts or abrasions to skin.
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