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Negative Ions Create Positive Vibes

There's something in the air that just may boost your mood -- get a whiff of negative ions.

Generating Negative Ions

In fact, every home has a built in natural ionizer -- the shower.

But when it comes to springing for that negative-ion generator you saw advertised in the local paper or on the web, buyer beware, says Columbia's Terman.

"There is a major problem with advertised units," he tells WebMD. "Output levels are not ... specified in a way that could advise antidepressant dose." 

And, he says, the cost of apparently equivalent units ranges from $100 to $1,000.  

"The safest course of action, in my opinion, would be to use units that have been demonstrated effective in our clinical trials and trials to come," he advises WebMD readers.

Room air circulation, heat and humidity, the proximity of grounded devices that may emit counteracting positive ions (such as computer monitors) may affect output levels (of a negative-ion generator), he explains

"We have tried to minimize the influence of these factors by adding grounded wrist-straps [commercially available] or grounded bed sheets [not yet available] for connection to the ionizer," he says. 

The possible interaction of negative-air ion therapy and antidepressant drug or light therapy for seasonal depression has not yet been investigated, he says. "It stands to reason, for example, that drug ... dose could be tapered [even to zero], if the patient responds to negative ion exposure.  

"I would advise anyone who experiences clinically significant depression to try negative-ion therapy only under doctor's guidance, and that doctors read up on this methodology before OKing such a trial, especially if the patient is already receiving other treatment," he advises.

What About Allergies and Asthma?

Harold Nelson, MD, professor of medicine at National Jewish Medical Center in Denver, was so excited when he first heard of negative-ion generators 20 years ago that he went out and bought one to study among allergy and asthma patients.

Unfortunately, the findings were "not terribly encouraging. We couldn't demonstrate anything," he tells WebMD. "I was disappointed. I had high expectations and they did not pan out, " he says.

The best bet for people with allergies and/or allergic asthma is to try to eliminate exposures, he says. "If you can't, or if you still have symptoms, then medication is the next step and fortunately we now have excellent medications," he says.

Published June 2, 2003.


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