Sauna and Health
The topic of sauna and health can be looked at from two different points of view:
1. Are there health risks involved with the sauna?
2. Can the sauna be used to improve one’s health or cure illnesses?
For ages the sauna has been considered the very source of energy and health in Finland, and even today the average Finn finds the question of sauna´s health risks rather amusing than serious. By an old Finnish saying an illness was to cause death if liquor, tar and sauna did not help.
The sauna has been a subject of scientific medical research for a couple of hundred years. Here are some findings of these studies:
For any healthy person the sauna bath presents no health risk, but rather gives a pleasant, relaxing and refreshing experience beneficial to both body and mind. It cleanses the pores of the skin, alleviates aches and pains and helps many people sleep more soundly. The golden rule with the sauna is the feeling of comfort: you can go to the sauna as often as you wish, stay there as long as you wish and repeat the hot-cold cycle as many times as you wish so long as it feels comfortable. Beginners may start with a recommended procedure until they learn the way they enjoy the sauna best.
Groups of people who may have health risks in the sauna and who therefore should pay special attention to the way they bathe are patients with various diseases, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, asthma or skin disease. However, for most people in these groups moderate sauna bathing presents no health risk. ”Moderate” here means keeping the temperature under 90°C (194°F) and avoiding any rapid changes from hot to cold or vice versa. Also pregnant women can safely go to the sauna under the same conditions, but should stay in somewhat lower temperature (around 70°C/158°F).
People who should avoid the sauna completely are e.g. people running fever or having inflammatory diseases or injuries. Anybody with a contagious disease should bathe only in his own sauna. Also people under the influence of alcohol should not go to the sauna, nor is there any evidence that the sauna would help in a hangover.
A more scientific approach on sauna and health is presented in the article Sauna and Health by Lasse Viinikka. Further reading on this subject can be found in the journal Annals of Clinical Research listed in Sauna Literature.