Did you know that the Finns invented saunas around 2000 years ago? The Finns used Saunas as a dwelling place during the winter, but they later started using them for bathing and also as a birthing place for pregnant women. With the industrial revolution and advanced scientific knowledge, the infrared sauna was invented, with the first one being available to the public in the USA in 1979.
These 2-century-old inventions with the ability to improve one's sleeping patterns, relieve sore muscles and provide general body relaxation only became popular in 2000 after large aquaparks and wellness centers integrated them. Infrared saunas offer an exceptional option for people who want to heat up their bodies in a more relaxed way.
But are these saunas safe for use for everybody? Do they pose any adverse health effects to the users? Please read on to find out the answers to the above questions. And if you are looking for easy and practical tips on how to use an infrared sauna, then you just clicked on the right article.
Precisely what are infrared saunas?
Infrared saunas differ from traditional saunas in that the latter heats the air around, thus warming your body. It works at a temperature range of 82.2 �C-93.3 �C. In contrast, infrared saunas directly warm your body through electromagnetic radiation emitted from the infrared lamps installed in them.
Infrared saunas heat one's core body temperature to 66 �C; this is according to Dr. Fran Cook-Bolden, who is an M.D, FAAD with Advanced Dermatology P.C. He also states that when one's body is exposed to such heat, there is profound deep tissue healing and detoxification through sweating, since such heat penetrates deeper.
You may think that most of the saunas found in commercial settings and homes are infrared saunas, but they are not. The North American Sauna Society states that the majority of these saunas use electric sauna heaters.
Are there any adverse health effects of using infrared saunas?
Improved sleeping patterns, enhanced general body relaxation, and relief from sore muscles are some of the health benefits one accrues by using an infrared sauna. But there are also some potential side effects and risks of using them.
Below are some of the common negative side effects of using an infrared sauna. This list is a compilation of a 2018 systematic review; a study conducted to determine the clinical side effects associated with regular dry sauna bathing.
- Airway irritation
- Hypotension (blood pressure under90/60 mm/Hg)
- Experiencing lightheadedness
- Short-term leg pain
- Mild to moderate heat discomfort
A mini 2013 study demonstrated that repeated use or exposure to saunas that is having 2 sauna sessions in a week for 3 months, with each session lasting for more than 15 minutes, caused an impairment of sperm count and motility.
According to Dr. Sharma (a board-certified internal medicine practitioner), overheating, dehydration, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke are also possible side effects associated with the use of an infrared sauna. These side effects result from prolonged exposure to the dry heat generated in an infrared sauna.
Are infrared saunas safe for use for everybody?
Most often, infrared saunas are considered to be safe for everyone. However, people who have either acute or chronic medical conditions, are on medications or have any implanted medical devices are at an increased risk of experiencing sauna-associated side effects.
Dr. Cook-Bolden states that certain conditions predispose one to become overheated and dehydrated when and after using an infrared sauna. Such conditions include;
- Being hypotensive
- Having a kidney disease(s)
- Using antihypertensive medications
Thus, it's always crucial that one consult their healthcare provider before subjecting themselves to any form of intense heat exposure.
Below are some of the medical conditions and physiological states that necessitate one to avoid using an infrared sauna or have a certified medical practitioner approve them to use one;
#Nerve and motor dysfunction
According to Dr. Cook-Bolden, an individual's ability to sense and respond to heat intensity while using an infrared sauna may be impair if one has nerve and motor dysfunction. This may put one at risk of sustaining life-threatening, if not life-quality reducing burn injuries.
Dr. Sharma says that saunas have the potential to increase one's heart rate, thus causing them to have arrhythmias. Hence people with heart arrhythmias are advised not to use saunas unless a certified health provider clears them to do so.
#Wounds that are unhealed or healing
If you have unhealed wounds or wounds that are healing, it's vital that you first wait until all your wounds are completely healed before using an infrared sauna.
A person in an immunocompromised state (that is, they have a weakened immune system) should first contact the facility providing them with the infrared sauna to ensure that their cleaning protocols and procedures are up to par with the set industrial standards before using it. They should also consult their health provider for guidance and clearance before using the same facility.
It's not advisable to use a sauna when pregnant, regardless of one's gestational age.
People who are at the age extreme that is very old and very young are advised against using saunas. This is because such people are at increased risk of getting dehydrated, feeling dizzy, and fainting during and after using a sauna.
According to Dr. Sharma, cardiovascular and strength training workouts are a perfect substitute for people who cannot tolerate using saunas and those who cannot access an infrared sauna.
Effective tips you can implement when using an infrared sauna
Below are some of the general guidelines for the safe use of the infrared sauna. These guidelines and recommendations apply to both genders and people of all ages who use saunas;
#Ask for medical consent
Always have a certified healthcare provider, especially if you have any of the previously mentioned medical conditions or physiological states, give you consent on whether or not to use an infrared sauna.
#Don't drink alcohol before using a sauna
Don't drink alcohol if you know you will use an infrared sauna. Alcohol's dehydrating nature predisposes you to an increased risk of overheating, dehydration, heat stroke, and heat exhaustion when using a sauna.
#Take in lots of fluid
Before using a sauna, it's advisable that you take in lots of fluids to compensate for the amount of water you will lose through sweating.
#Let your body adapt
Slowly let your body adapt to being exposed to intense body temperatures by staying in an infrared sauna for periods not lasting more than 10-15 minutes. Then gradually increase your stay time, depending on how fast and well your body adapts.
#Don't use a sauna if you have sensitive or irritated skin
Dr. Cook-Bolden advises against using an infrared sauna in people with sensitive or irritated skin.
#Know when to stop
Dizziness and lightheadedness are some of the telltale signs that something isn't right and that you need to cut short your sauna session.
Are infrared saunas safe to use?
Infrared saunas are safe for use for most people. However, people; with cardiovascular, nerve, and motor conditions, immunocompromised states, of extreme ages (very young and very old), and pregnant are at an increased risk of experiencing infrared sauna associated side effects. In order to be safe when using a sauna, you should; Drink plenty of water, avoid drinking alcohol before using a sauna, seek clearance, and know when to stop using an infrared sauna.