Sauna: Is sauna bathing associated with risks?

A visit to the sauna is not only relaxing and vitalizing, but also beneficial for overall health. But with temperatures averaging 176 °F, not everyone is able to enjoy this kind of preventive health treatment. Therefore, before visiting the sauna should be well-informed and pay attention to the advice of medical professionals.
The effects of high heat on your body

The effects of high heat on your body

Are there any risks associated with taking a sauna? The temperature in a traditional Finnish sauna is particularly high. At the level of the face, the temperature is often between 176 and 194 °F, while at the level of the feet it is usually around 104 °F. The temperature in this environment contributes to the general well-being, as it affects the entire body. However, in addition to the benefits of spending time in the heat, there are also some problems that come along with it.

In particular, high temperatures cause an acceleration of the heart rate, increased sweat production and dilation of the blood vessels. In comparison, the body is exposed to comparable consequences of physical activity. In addition, the combined effect of heat and vasodilation decreases blood pressure. For all these reasons, some people are unable to take advantage of saunas.

Contrary to popular belief, there is also no sauna ban for heart patients

This means that during physical exertion and even mental stress, the heart has a higher oxygen demand than when relaxing in the sauna. However, in a few cases, sauna use remains contraindicated. These are:

  • in case of aortic stenosis,
  • unstable angina,
  • fresh myocardial infarction,
  • unstable stroke in the history
  • Cardiac arrhythmias and heart failure (which must be evaluated on a case-by-case basis by a cardiologist)
  • Orthostatic hypotension (in which case patients should take extra care when leaving the sauna)
  • Kidney problems
  • Diabetes
  • Epilepsy
  • Circulatory disorders

 

Sauna during pregnancy

Are there any risks during pregnancy? According to a medical study conducted in Finland, the fetus’ heart rate increases by 15 beats per minute when exposed to the heat of a sauna. This is hardly more than after a “simple” physical exertion of the mother (about 12 beats per minute), such as after a walk or an hour of cleaning!

Because of the many benefits of sauna use, 90% of Finnish women continue to use the sauna until they give birth, in part to relieve the discomfort often associated with pregnancy. In addition to relieving lower back discomfort, sauna also eliminates water retention and elimination, and pregnancy preparation is improved by regular sauna use.

To continue sauna during pregnancy, expectant mothers should shorten their sauna sessions by a few minutes and avoid taking cold water baths after leaving the sauna, preferring to take lukewarm showers. During the last stage of pregnancy, a cold bath can induce labor.

But be careful!

Firstly, only those who are already used to sauna visits should consider a sweat bath. Pregnancy is not the right time to start sweating if you have never done so before.

Keep the following recommendations in mind

To get the full benefits of a sauna session, you should also follow these additional recommendations:

  • Before going to the sauna, you should definitely not consume alcohol, narcotics or antihypertensive drugs.
  • During the digestive phase, it is recommended to refrain from visiting the sauna. Before going to the sauna, you should wait at least two hours after eating something.
  • If you are trying to quit smoking and are wearing patches, remove them. Absorption of chemicals is aided by increased blood flow to the skin.
  • It is strongly recommended that you do not shave on the same day that you go to the sauna. Shaving can cause skin irritation and itching.
  • If you can’t stand the heat but are otherwise in good health, you can go to an infrared sauna or the bio sauna instead.

Don’t forget to drink and rest!

To avoid further risks, you should listen to your body during a sauna session. If you feel the slightest discomfort, you should immediately go outside. Since you will be sweating, you should drink at least one glass of water after your sauna session and rest afterward. You can also have a light salty meal after the sauna session to compensate for the loss of mineral salts.

 

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