Feel Better [Fast]! Sauna When Sick?

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Written By Rachel Mcadms

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Sometimes we feel under the weather because of pesky seasonal allergies or a mild fever. Our body feels sluggish and drained. But, there is something rejuvenating about a sauna session. It’s about restoring our vitality. The soothing heat and invigorating steam from saunas have a mystical therapeutic quality. They promise to restore our energy, clear our mind, and relax us. The science behind heat therapy tells us that any type of sauna can be the ultimate catalyst for a speedy recovery!

When I first tried a sauna while feeling a bit worse than usual, the experience was almost magical. The warmth was soothing, and the steam felt invigorating. It was as if the sauna’s heat was working to clear my mind and relax my body. For anyone looking to restore their energy and feel better, a sauna session might just be what you need. It’s not just about warming up; it’s about restoring your vitality and getting back to feeling your best. Saunas have a way of making you feel rejuvenated, ready to tackle the world again with renewed energy.

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Is Sauna Good When You’re Sick?

Sauna Therapy for Recovery

When we feel sick, our first thought might not always be to jump into a sauna. But, sauna therapy can actually help us feel better and recover more quickly. It’s not just about warming up; it’s about how the heat from a sauna can improve our symptoms, whether it’s a cold, fever, or flu. Increasing our core body temperature can relieve stress and pain. It makes us sweat, helping eliminate excess fluid and toxins our body is fighting. This process helps detoxify us, opening our airways to breathe easier, especially when suffering from a stuffy nose or congestion.

Increasing blood flow and oxygenation helps carry white blood cells throughout the body to fight infections, essentially giving our immune system a boost. If you’re dealing with symptoms like body aches, soreness, or aching joints and muscles, a sauna’s heat can reduce systemic inflammation and relax stiff areas, alleviating fatigue.

Sauna Use and Cold Prevention

A study with 25 participants showed that half of the volunteers who used a sauna regularly for 6 months had fewer occurrences of the common cold compared to the group that didn’t. This suggests that regular sauna usage can reduce the probability of catching a cold. Another 2017 study on regular sauna use found it helped reduce the occurrence of pneumonia in Caucasian men aged 42 to 61 years. These findings support the idea that saunas not only help with recovery when you’re already sick but might also prevent illnesses like colds and pneumonia.

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Experiencing the benefits of sauna therapy personally, I noticed not just an improvement in how quickly I recovered from colds, but also a general uplift in my mood and well-being during the winter months, a prime time for flu and cold. It’s important, however, to listen to your body and ensure you’re not exacerbating any conditions, especially with high fevers or more severe symptoms where rest and medical advice should take precedence.

The Benefits of Using Sauna When Sick

Relieves Congestion

Studies show that airborne irritants like dust, pollen, and smoke can cause congestion. This can get worse with respiratory conditions such as sinusitis, bronchitis, COPD, asthma, and lung cancer. Both saunas and steam rooms can relieve this. Research says breathing in moist, warm air helps our lungs by loosening stubborn mucus and flushing out debris in the respiratory system. It becomes easier to breathe, and it reduces the risk of lung infections.

Strengthens Immune System

The immune system is a complex network of cells and proteins that defend the body against harmful bacteria, germs, and infections. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, factors like poor nutrition, smoking, and alcoholism, or medical conditions such as diabetes, HIV, and AIDS, can weaken it. Sauna therapy keeps your immune system in tip-top shape by boosting your body’s natural defense mechanism. The high temperatures in a sauna trigger physiological responses, including a temporary temperature hike that creates an artificial fever-like state, increasing production of white blood cells and lymphocytes to fight off invading pathogens and viruses, leading to faster recovery from illnesses.

Alleviates Seasonal Allergies

With changing seasons come pesky side effects like sneezing, runny nose, and itchy eyes. Sauna bathing is a secret weapon against these annoying symptoms. Recent studies highlight the effectiveness of steam as an expectorant and the soothing heat and humidity help in the expulsion of excessive mucus and phlegm from airways, keeping your nasal passage clear and reducing irritation and inflammation—the main culprits behind the symptoms of seasonal allergies.

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Muscle and Joint Pain Relief

Whether it’s muscle pain from a strenuous workout or accidental injury, saunas can help. According to the Arthritis Foundation, the heat permeates muscles, relaxing tightened fibers and alleviating muscle spasms while reducing pain levels. This heat encourages the flow of oxygen-rich blood and essential nutrients to damaged tissues and cells, speeding up the recovery process.

Reduces Stress

Battling illness or dealing with aches and pains can be stressful. Sauna therapy is an effective stress reliever. Just sitting in the pleasant warmth of a sauna makes the body respond by decreasing cortisol levels and releasing endorphins, the body’s natural “feel-good” chemicals. According to the Cleveland Clinic, these neurotransmitters promote happiness, relaxation, and serenity, diminishing pain.

Enhances Sleep Quality

Being unwell can affect sleep quality. If medications wake you up in the midnight, or you’re struggling to fall asleep, a sauna session might be the solution to your sleep woes. Research indicates that a dip in the body’s temperature as bedtime approaches signals it’s time to sleep. A soak in the sauna’s heat causes an intentional, controlled spike in body temperature. When you step out and begin cooling down, this process sends a powerful sleep cue to your brain, easing you into restful slumber.

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Potential Risk of Using Sauna When Sick

While sauna sessions offer many health benefits, it’s crucial to consider the potential risks when feeling under the weather.

Pregnancy

Studies show excessive heat exposure in a sauna can increase the risk of congenital disabilities and complications. If pregnant, it’s wise to consult a healthcare provider before engaging in sauna sessions.

Heart Concerns

People with cardiovascular issues should be cautious. Saunas can elevate heart rates and blood pressure. For safety, talk to your doctor before trying sauna therapy, especially for diabetic or hypertensive patients.

Germ Transfer

Stepping into a sauna with other people can increase germ exposure and infection vulnerability. If feeling unwell, consider a solo session in a thoroughly sanitized environment.

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Dehydration

Saunas cause severe sweating. If you’re profusely sweating, have a fever, sore throat, or fluid imbalance, it might worsen your condition. Always drink ample water before, during, and after a session to prevent adverse effects.

Overheating

In feverish conditions, excessive body temperatures can be harmful. If your illness is accompanied by a fever, avoid sauna sessions until it subsides.

Respiratory Infections

Respiratory infections can exacerbate coughing and breathing difficulties. Consult a healthcare provider to see if sauna use is appropriate for your condition.

Safety Tips for Using Sauna When Sick

Using a sauna when sick has its benefits and risks. Here are some tips to use it safely and effectively:

Drink Plenty of Water

Drink plenty of water before and after your sauna session to prevent dehydration. You lose fluids while sweating, so it’s essential to replenish.

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Avoid Alcohol and Medications

Avoid alcohol and medications that may impair sweating or produce overheating. These can make sauna use less safe.

Stay in the Sauna Safely

Stay in the sauna for no more than 15 to 20 minutes at a time. Prolonged exposure can be harmful, cause overheating, dizziness, or fainting. If you feel unwell, head for the door immediately.

Cool Down Gradually

Cool down gradually after sauna use. Don’t take a cold shower or jump in a pool; this can shock your system and cause blood pressure changes. Instead, sit or lie in a cool place and relax for a few minutes.

Best Saunas to Use When Sick

Almost Heaven Watoga 4-Person Standard Barrel Sauna

The Almost Heaven Watoga 4-Person Standard Barrel Sauna offers ultimate comfort and relaxation. It comes with a Harvia 4.5kW electric heater, heating the sauna to a toasty 195 degrees Fahrenheit. You can delay start-up time for up to eight hours. The sauna is assembled with 1-3/8″ thick ball and socket lumber, ensuring a robust and long-lasting build with excellent insulating capabilities.

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LED lights cast a serene glow, creating a relaxing atmosphere. Opposite-facing benches provide ample space to stretch out or engage in conversation. Choose between rustic cedar or white fir to customize your sauna’s look for a unique aesthetic. Add color-changing mood lights, a flat floor kit, or a Himalayan salt panel for an even more invigorating sauna session.

Health Mate Elevated Health Infrared Sauna

The Health Mate Elevated Health Infrared Sauna takes wellness to a new level. Made from fast-growing, anti-microbial eucalyptus wood, it’s odorless, moisture-resistant, and easy to clean—a breeze to maintain. The patented Tecoloy™ heater offers remarkable 360 degrees dual wave heat, penetrating deeper into tissues for maximum effect.

It also features a 96-diode near-infrared LED chromotherapy light panel for harmonizing effects on the mind and body. With a magazine holder for your reading materials within arm’s reach, and Bluetooth and CD player capabilities for soothing tunes, uplifting beats, or guided meditation, it’s designed for comfort and relaxation. Interior and exterior controllers let you easily manage the sauna’s temperature and lighting settings.

Traditional Dry Sauna

When sick, a Traditional Dry Sauna might help. This sauna uses electric heaters mounted on the wall or floor to produce heat. It’s similar to a Finnish sauna but without the steam. You sit in a warm room with temperatures up to 200°F. This dry heat can alleviate symptoms of illness.

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Pros

  • Sweat production helps with detoxification.
  • Improves white blood cell level, helping the immune system.
  • Increases blood circulation, reducing aches and stiffness in joints and muscles.
  • Reduces pulmonary congestion, making you feel better.

Cons

  • If you don’t hydrate properly, you might suffer from overheating or heat stroke.
  • Dry heat can irritate airways and lungs.
  • High temperatures above 150°F might cause discomfort.

It’s important to listen to your body. If you feel too hot or uncomfortable, it’s best to leave the sauna. Always drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.

Steam Saunas

When you are sick, Steam Saunas can be a good choice. These rooms are made from materials like glass, stone, tile, or acrylic. Steam rooms and saunas are not new. They come from ancient times, used by Turkish, Greek, and Roman cultures. In a steam sauna, humidity levels can reach up to 100%. This high level of humidity can help with cold, cough, and flu symptoms.

Pros

  • Helps open up congested airways and flush mucus build-up.
  • High humidity levels soothe an irritated respiratory system.
  • Increased blood circulation can activate white blood cells and boost the immune system.
  • Lower temperatures in a steam bath are often more comfortable than a traditional sauna.

Cons

  • There’s an increased risk of dehydration because of the high humidity.
  • Moisture can aid the growth of bacteria.
  • Might not be good for those with vascular complications.

Steam saunas are great for easing symptoms when you’re sick. Just make sure to drink lots of water and not stay in too long to avoid any issues.

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How Can a Sauna Help When You’re Sick?

For Colds

Using a steam sauna when you have a cold can help. It may alleviate symptoms like a stuffy nose, cough, headache, and sore throat. The steam helps moisten and soothe irritated nasal passages, making breathing easier. But, it’s important to drink water and stay well-hydrated. Being too warm can lead to getting overheated or even heatstroke very quickly.

For Cough

If you have a cough, a sauna might reduce mucus build-up and relieve irritation in your respiratory system. A 2017 study found that steam therapy can help moisten dry, irritated air passages. It’s often recommended for conditions like bronchitis and sinusitis.

For Lung Function

Saunas might strengthen lung function and improve breathing, especially for those with chronic respiratory issues, allergies, or asthma. Starting with 5 minutes of sauna therapy sessions and gradually increasing the time, along with breathing techniques like the Wim Hof Method, can be beneficial.

For Flu

While a sauna can help reduce aching muscles in the body during the flu, it’s risky with a high fever. Trying to sweat it out can make things worse, causing you to lose fluids and electrolytes. Since sweating is essential for faster recovery, increasing your body temperature in a sauna might worsen symptoms and make you sicker. It’s best to rest and hydrate by drinking water and other liquids. Avoid sauna therapy during the flu.

For Fever

With a fever, your immune system is already weakened and stressed. Trying to recover by visiting a sauna and increasing your core body temperature may do more harm than good. It can lead to complications like arrhythmia or myocarditis. It’s not recommended.

For Stomach Flu

The stomach flu, or viral gastroenteritis, comes with high temperatures, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and fever. Using a sauna can make these symptoms worse. It’s best to avoid saunas with a stomach bug.

The Takeaway

Sauna therapy comes with many health benefits, like enhancing circulation, promoting detoxification, and boosting immune function. It might seem like the perfect solution when you’re feeling under the weather or battling a cold. If you’re just feeling a little off, taking advantage of sauna heat can help. But, it’s crucial to hydrate sufficiently and listen to your body. If you start to feel worse, it’s time to take it easy and don’t push yourself. Saunas can be great, but not if you’re too sick.

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FAQs

Is it good to go in the sauna when sick?

No, you shouldn’t use a sauna if you have a cold or flu. There’s a risk of dehydration and added heat stress, which could cause further symptoms.

Is sauna better than steam when sick?

Dry heat can help clear nasal passages and aid in enhancing immune response by reducing congestion and inflammation in the respiratory system. A steam room can be more effective for some.

Can a sauna cure a cold?

While there are reputed benefits, there’s not enough evidence to say saunas speed recovery from colds or reduce their occurrence. Some researchers think sauna heat might reduce symptoms and improve drainage, and high temperatures could weaken cold and flu viruses.

Is sauna good for lungs?

Yes, for improving lung function, reducing stress, and opening airways, saunas can play a role in managing asthma symptoms and enhancing lung health. The benefits of infrared saunas for asthma management are noted, but it’s best to start with lower temperatures and gradually increase session duration.

Does sauna boost immune system?

It’s commonly known that a sauna benefit is improved blood circulation, enhanced detoxification processes, deep skin cleansing, and stress relief, all of which can boost the immune system by raising body temperature, creating an artificial fever, and exercising a strengthened response.

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