What's the deal with smelling salts?

I’ve been told they’re made of ammonium carbonate and they work by irritating the lungs and nose so that the fainting victim breathes faster (to get oxygen to the brain faster, I guess).

Did people really used to carry smelling salts around with them? In movies about certain time periods, whenever someone faints, someone else whips out the smelling salts that they just happened to have handy. (It would make sense if it’s true that women’s fainting all over the place was caused by wearing constricting corsets.)

Does anyone still use smelling salts, or is there some reason why you wouldn’t want to revive someone that way?

I’d like to second this question; not really sure if that gets it answered any faster…

Well, it might keep it in a noticeable position at the top of the board longer. :wink:

Yes, smelling salts are still used by emergency personnel; they don’t do anything to revive the unconscious, but they will get a rapid response out of fainters, fakers, sleepers, and zoners. My EMT classes said never to use them, but I saw a fireman use them once to “revive” an “unconscious” drunk who was trying to get a free hospital bed.

Smelling salts are usually dispensed in a glass ampule inside a fabric capsule; break the ampule under the nose, and people wake up in a hurry.