Sauna bathing is an ancient tradition that traces its roots back hundreds of years in many diverse cultures around the world. Infrared saunas are the latest innovation in heat therapy.
And while this practice is safe and very good for your health, like anything, it can come with risks and should be used with precautions for certain individuals.
This concise guide helps you understand the risks associated with using an infrared sauna and enables you to understand the precautions you should take when using such a device.
Before we go into the dangers of using an infrared sauna, it is helpful to know just exactly what such a machine is.
An infrared sauna is similar to a traditional dry sauna.
You sit in a heated space, where you sweat, relax, and detoxify your body.
The difference between infrared and other types of saunas is how the heat is produced.
While traditional saunas use either electric, gas, or wood-burning furnace to heat the air inside the sauna room, infrared saunas use electromagnetic radiation to directly heat your body, not the air.
A traditional sauna can reach temperatures up to 200 degrees Fahrenheit, but most infrared saunas reach highs of between 120- 140 degrees Fahrenheit.
They still deliver the same benefits as those heated by other sources.
Because infrared radiation directly heats the body, not the air, it takes a little longer for you to notice the heat, but you get the same benefits from your sauna session, regardless of the heat source.
The Potential Dangers of Infrared Sauna Use
The use of a sauna, regardless of its heating source, does have a risk for some people.
While infrared saunas and all types of saunas are generally considered to be safe and pose few adverse reactions, there are certain risks you should be aware of before using them.
A sauna, by its nature, encourages sweating and results in elevated temperatures.
Because of this, the risk of heat-related complications and dehydration is increased.
Overheating, feeling dizzy, and becoming disoriented can occur, especially in those who are not used to using a sauna.
The easiest way to avoid this complication is to drink plenty of water before your sauna and to start out with shorter sessions until you know how you will react to the sauna’s heat.
Women who are pregnant often experience heat more intensely and have difficulty regulating body temperature.
For this reason, pregnant women should use caution in a sauna, drink plenty of water, and shorten the amount of time they spend in a sauna.
Those who take medication for blood pressure should also use caution.
Saunas are very relaxing and can reduce blood pressure significantly.
If you are taking medicine to accomplish this goal, sitting in a sauna can cause your blood pressure to go even lower, which can result in lightheadedness, dizziness, and even fainting.
You should stand and rise from lying down very slowly and limit your sauna time until you know how the elevated temperatures will affect you and your blood pressure.
When you sit in a sauna, your blood circulation is increased.
Because of this, your body may metabolize and use certain medications more effectively or efficiently.
This can change how you respond to medicines that you take all the time.
If you take medicine for any type of chronic condition, check with your doctor before using an infrared sauna to be sure it is safe.
The most common medications affected by sauna use include insulin, medicines for the skin, and those that are transmitted trans-dermally.
The intense heat and improved circulation associated with sauna use can intensify the effects of recreational drugs and alcohol.
Drinking or taking drugs can also increase your chances of becoming dehydrated or using poor judgment to assess your heat tolerance.
You should never use a sauna if you have been drinking or taking drugs.
The excessive sweating that occurs when you sit in a hot sauna for an extended period not only depletes your body of water but also removes essential nutrients, especially electrolytes from your body.
Drinking plenty of fluids, including those with valuable electrolytes, after you leave the sauna is vital for replenishing these nutrients and keeping you healthy.
If you have a chronic condition, especially heart disease, multiple sclerosis, lupus, angina, or arrhythmia, you should talk with your doctor about how sauna use will affect you and what precautions you should take to protect your health.
Those with implants, including any made from metal or silicone, should talk with their doctor about possible interactions or reactions from infrared sauna use, as well.
Saunas affect everyone differently.
Everyone who uses an infrared sauna should pay close attention to their physical and mental state while inside to ensure that they are safe and healthy.
If you notice signs of dehydration or heat exhaustion, you should leave the sauna immediately, cool down quickly, and drink plenty of fluids.
Children are more sensitive to extreme temperatures than adults.
For this reason, their use of a sauna should be limited to no more than 15-20 minutes per session, and they should always be accompanied and monitored by a responsible adult while inside an infrared sauna.
Because an infrared sauna has lower temperatures than a traditional sauna, they are often much safer for children, but you should always use caution with this type.
The use of infrared saunas is considered to be very safe as long as you pay attention and use common sense as well as exercise a few precautions.
While most people have few or no troubles using an infrared sauna, there are a few people who should be more cautious to ensure their safety and well-being.
If you have any doubts about the safety of using a sauna or want to know the best intervals or temperatures for you, you should consult with your doctor.
When used correctly, infrared and other types of saunas are an excellent way to relax, detoxify the body, promote healing, and improve circulation.