If the sauna ventilation fails: what effects does this have on the body?

The sauna is a place of relaxation and recreation for many people around the world. Whether in Finland, Sweden or elsewhere, the tradition of sauna bathing has a long history and is considered by many to be an important part of a healthy lifestyle. But what happens if the ventilation in the sauna fails?
Ventilation in the sauna plays an important role
© saunazeit

Ventilation in the sauna plays an important role

Before we look at the possible effects of a failure of ventilation in the sauna, we should first understand why ventilation in the sauna is so important in the first place. The sauna is a room where temperatures can become extremely high. During a sauna session, the temperature often rises to over 80 degrees Celsius (176 °F), which causes the body to sweat profusely. This sweating is a natural mechanism of the body to cool itself down.

Ventilation in the sauna plays a crucial role in ensuring that the air quality is maintained in this extremely hot and humid environment. Without adequate ventilation, the air in the sauna can become stuffy and pollutants released during sweating can build up. This can lead to a variety of health problems.

When sauna ventilation fails: effects on the body

Now that we know how important ventilation is in the sauna, let’s take a closer look at what happens when it fails. The effects on the body can be varied and range from mild discomfort to serious health problems.

1. Heat exhaustion and heat stroke

If the ventilation in the sauna fails and there is poor air quality, this leads to a rapid increase in heat in the room. This can lead to sauna users suffering heat stroke. Symptoms can range from dizziness and nausea to unconsciousness and life-threatening conditions.

2. Breathing problems

Insufficient ventilation can also cause the air in the sauna to become saturated with pollutants such as carbon dioxide and other gaseous substances. This leads to breathing problems, especially for people with respiratory diseases such as asthma. Inhaling such contaminated air irritates the respiratory tract and can cause coughing, shortness of breath and other symptoms.

3. Dehydration

Sweating in the sauna is normal, but without adequate ventilation, the body can lose excessive amounts of fluid. This can lead to dehydration, which in turn can lead to a number of health problems. Dehydration can lead to dizziness, headaches, confusion and, in the worst case, even circulatory collapse.

4. Skin problems

The skin is the body’s largest organ and is sensitive to extreme heat and humidity. If the ventilation in the sauna fails, this leads to skin problems. The skin can become irritated, redness and rashes can occur, and in some cases burns can even occur if the temperatures in the sauna are extremely high.

5. Circulatory problems

The heat in the sauna can increase blood pressure, and if the ventilation is not working, this can exacerbate circulatory problems. People with high blood pressure or heart problems should be particularly careful when using a sauna without adequate ventilation, as this can lead to dangerous spikes in blood pressure.

6. Concentration and clarity

Not only the body, but also the mind, can suffer from the effects of poor ventilation in the sauna. The heat and unpleasant air quality can affect concentration and lead to mental clouding. This can significantly impair the sauna experience and reduce the relaxing effect.

How can you minimize the risk?

Now that we know the effects a sauna ventilation failure can have, it’s also good to know how to minimize the risk. Here are some measures you can take to make your sauna session safe and enjoyable:

1. Check the ventilation

Before you enter the sauna, make sure the ventilation is working properly. Look for fans or vents and make sure that fresh air is entering the room.

2. Limit the time

Do not spend too much time in the sauna, especially if the ventilation is not optimal. A reasonable amount of time in the sauna should generally be no more than 8 to 15 minutes. Leave the sauna immediately if you feel unwell.

3. Pay attention to your body’s reactions

Your body often gives you signs when something is wrong. Pay attention to these signals while you are in the sauna:

  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Nausea
  • Palpitations or irregular heartbeat
  • Heavy breathing or shortness of breath
  • Heavy sweating and cold, damp skin at the same time

If you notice any of these symptoms, leave the sauna immediately and move to a cooler place.

4. Avoid alcohol and heavy meals

Alcohol and heavy meals can intensify the effects of the sauna and increase the risk of dehydration and circulatory problems. Therefore, avoid drinking alcohol and eating heavy meals before or after a sauna session.

5. Cooling down after a sauna session

You should definitely cool down after leaving the sauna. You can take a refreshing cold shower or use a water hose to cool down your body. This will help your body to regenerate and return to a normal temperature.


FAQ: Frequently asked questions

How often should I use the sauna?

The frequency of sauna use depends on your personal preferences and physical condition. As a rule, it is recommended not to use the sauna more than 2–3 times a week for 8–15 minutes at a time.

Are there people who should not use the sauna?

Yes, people with certain health conditions such as heart problems, high blood pressure, respiratory or skin diseases should avoid the sauna or consult a doctor before going to the sauna.

Can the sauna help with weight loss?

The sauna can cause temporary weight loss through sweating, but this loss is mainly due to fluid loss and not fat burning. The sauna is not an effective method for long-term weight loss. A balanced diet and regular exercise are more important.


David Brunner