Clearlight would like to remind users that this should not be taken as direct medical advice, and you should always consult a licensed health practitioner before making any significant changes to your lifestyle or existing pain treatment regimen. In the blog post, we referred to a clinical study that used a cabin sauna and measured its temperature to demonstrate the practical applications of using the sauna and the outcomes that were observed during the experiment. It is important to note that the benefits are not derived from the temperature of the sauna cabin itself, but rather from the increase in the body's core temperature, and the cabin temperature serves only as a means to raise the body temperature in a controlled manner for the purposes of the study. This fact is supported by peer-reviewed studies that outline specific requirements for duration, frequency and cabin temperature for the safe and effective use of a sauna.
You might have heard that one of the best treatments for the common cold is to 'sweat it out', but as it turns out, that might not be the best way of fighting a cold or flu.
While the health benefits of infrared saunas have been documented in clinical studies, there is contention around the concept that a sauna is beneficial for treating cold or flu viruses. Today we’re going to examine if a sauna is good for a cold or flu, and how long you should sauna for immunity-boosting benefits.
Infrared Sauna Immune System Benefits: Is Sauna Good for the Immune System?
Yes, an sauna is good for the immune system and is beneficial in fighting pathogens and toxins. The system is made up of a network of organs, tissues, and cells that work together to protect your body, with the main tools being white blood cells.
White blood cells are responsible for attacking and destroying viruses and bacteria. Regular sauna is good for the immune system because it activates one of the body's first defences, a fever.
A fever causes an uninhabitable environment for the invaders, making it difficult for them to survive. An artificial fever also tricks the body into producing more white blood cells and releases heat shock proteins (HSP) – a family of proteins that help protect and repair cells from damage.
How Long Should You Sauna for Immunity Boosting Benefits?
To boost the immune system, sauna bathers should aim to spend at least 15-minutes inside the sauna, regularly above three times a week, for a 3 month period.
Both studies below reference using a 15 minute sauna session during each experiment for both white-blood cell and heat shock protein increases. How long you spend in a sauna, however, isn't the be all, end all when it comes to sauna benefits, and regardless if you spend longer or shorter amounts of time inside your sauna you will be sure to receive some benefit.
How does a Sauna boost the Immune System?
A sauna boosts the immune system by promoting both heat-shock proteins and white blood cells. White blood cells are made up of innate immune cells and adaptive immune cells.
Innate immune cells are always present in our bodies and respond quickly to invading viruses and bacteria, while adaptive immune cells are produced in response to an infection, and they provide more long-term immunity against that particular virus or bacteria.
Does Sauna increase White Blood Cell production?
A 2013 study aimed to examine the effects of Finnish Sauna on white-blood cell count in athletes and non-athletes. 9 trained middle-distance runners and 9 non-athletes participated in a 15-minute sauna session until their core temperature rose by 1.2°C with a 2 minute cool down.
The study found that sauna bathing stimulated the immune system to a higher degree in the group of athletes compared to non-athletes, and in the white blood cell profile, the study found a statistically significant increase after sauna use.
Does Sauna increase heat shock proteins?
Heat shock proteins play a significant role in recovery from sickness and illness. HSPs help to protect the cells and reduce inflammation, and promote the natural healing process.
A 2015 review suggests that the increase in HSP production contributes to the sauna benefits for diabetes. "We suggest that heat therapy (sauna: 80-100°C; hot tub: at 40°C) for 15 min, three times a week, for 3 months", stated the researchers.
Is a Sauna Good for Cold and Flu Viruses?
No, a hot sauna is not good for colds or flu because the risk of dehydration and added heat stress has a higher chance of causing further symptoms.
A 2010 randomised controlled study from the Medical Journal of Australia found that for dry saunas, “inhaling hot air while in a sauna has no significant impact on overall symptom severity of the common cold,”.
157 participants with common cold or flu symptoms were split into two groups, one that inhaled hot sauna air, while the other inhaled room temperature air. All participants at in a sauna with 20% humidity and a temperature of 90°C while wearing a winter coat, and one group was fed room temperature air through a face mask, while the other group inhaled the sauna air. The sauna sessions were short 3 minutes for 3 consecutive days and there were no differences found in the participant's evaluation of cold or flu symptoms.
This clinical study involving a cabin sauna and temperature measurement was mentioned in the blog to represent the practical applications of using a sauna and the recorded outcomes. It is pertinent to note that the benefits are not produced exclusively from the temperature of the sauna cabin, but from the rise in the body's core temperature which the cabin temperature provides in a controlled environment.
What are the Side Effects of using a Sauna for a Cold or Flu?
Some potential side effects of using a sauna include dehydration, dizziness, and skin irritation. Because the body’s sweat response is triggered, too much time in a sauna can make you more dehydrated.
Staying hydrated is one of the most important aspects in fighting the common cold or flu, and if your body is losing more fluid than it is ingesting, this could hinder your immune system’s ability to fight pathogens causing your sickness.
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Can a Sauna give you a Cold or Flu?
No, a sauna cannot give you a cold, and if you are already sick, using a sauna could potentially worsen your symptoms.
However, a review of six studies involving 387 people looked at whether using heated, humidified air can help relieve symptoms of the common cold. There were no signs that using heated, humidified air made symptoms worse, and it did not seem to affect the amount of virus in the body.
Can a Sauna treat a Cold or Flu?
Drawing from the above findings, a sauna is not an effective treatment for common cold or flu. While saunas are effective at stimulating the immune system, and possibly supporting cold or flu prevention, they shouldn't be viewed as a treatment.
Is Sauna Good For Cold Symptoms?
Yes, sauna can be good for certain cold symptom relief, due to its ability to reduce pain and increase blood flow in the body. The increase in body temperature can speed recovery up for mild symptoms such as a sore throat, and help the body fight its way back to optimal health.
However, as noted earlier there is no evidence to suggest sauna can treat a cold, but it can support healthy immune function.
Is Sauna Good for Chest and Nasal Congestion?
Yes, sauna can be useful for temporary symptom relief of congestion. This is because the hot steam inhalation of a steam room or traditional sauna can help to break up phlegm and clear the lung’s airways. Ensure that if you are using a sauna for the treatment of a cold or its symptoms, you stay hydrated, and limit your time inside the sauna to 15-20 minutes.
Can you Sweat out Allergies in a Sauna?
No, it is unlikely that sauna use will have a significant impact on allergies. However, hot steam and humid air may provide some relief of allergy symptoms by reducing congestion and inflammation in the sinuses and airways.
Can a Sauna make a Cough Worse?
A sauna may temporarily worsen a cough by irritating the airways. However, it can also help alleviate congestion and improve breathing in the long term.
Is Sauna Good for a Fever?
No, a sauna is not good for a fever. As a general rule of thumb, if you are severely unwell - be it a fever or a cold and flu - it is best to avoid additional heat stress altogether.
Heat stress is a formidable foe to anybody regardless of if you're at your best or not, and when you're not it is best to focus your energy on fighting off the illness.
Is it Safe to Sauna with a Fever?
Yes, in most cases it is safe to get in a sauna if you have a low fever. If you have any of these symptoms and your temperature continues to rise, it is important to discontinue the use of the sauna and seek medical attention. A fever can be a sign of a more serious illness, and it is important to get checked out by a doctor if your fever persists.
When is a Fever Dangerous?
A fever becomes dangerous when it reaches a temperature of 40ºC or higher. A high fever is a sign of a serious infection or illness and you should avoid the sauna and seek medical attention if this occurs.
Tips for using Sauna with Fever
There are a few risks to be aware of when the sauna bathing with a fever. Knowing these tips will ultimately keep your sauna experience safe and give you the confidence to help you decide if the hot box is something you need right now.
Hydration tips for infrared saunas: First, it's important to drink plenty of fluids before and after your session to avoid dehydration. Salts are minerals that are essential for the body to function properly. They are lost through sweat, so it is important to replace them when you use infrared saunas. The best drinks for salts are water and sports drinks. Water is the best drink for rehydrating the body, while sports drinks contain electrolytes that help replace the minerals lost through sweat. You can also opt for coconut water and fruit juices.
What's the rush? Take it slowly and relax: Secondly, be sure to avoid overexerting yourself when you have cold symptoms or a fever. Remember your body is a most likely fighting infection so don't burden it more by knocking on death's door with high temperatures. Even a hot shower can be too much during a fever so be gentle with yourself. Take plenty of breaks and don't push it. In some instances, the humid air and high temperature may help loosen nasal mucus and alleviate common colds and symptoms when using steam rooms.
Quit while you're ahead: Finally, if you experience any dizziness or nausea, just stop. Sauna therapy will be around when you get better, so don't ignore what your body is trying to tell you. Sauna therapy is great to support a healthy lifestyle and provide overall health benefits, but it shouldn't be used as a cure for common colds.
What is the Best Sauna for Flu?
There is no definitive answer on whether a sauna or steam room is better for the flu, as both can provide similar benefits.
It's important to consult with your doctor before using a sauna if you have any medical concerns.
Why do you feel weak after using a Sauna?
You may feel weak after using a sauna due to dehydration or due to vasodilation and an increased heart rate, blood flow can increase and blood pressure can drop quickly.
Another possibility for feeling weak after sauna is that the release of toxins from the body may cause nausia and fatigue for a short period after.
Sauna can also place a lot of stress on the body, similar to physical activity, and the excessive sweating can cause you to burn calories in saunas and fatigue.
What should you do if you feel Sick after using a Sauna?
If you feel sick after using a sauna, it's important to drink plenty of cool water and rest. If your symptoms persist or worsen, visit a health professional.
As we explore the myriad of health benefits that sauna usage can bring, particularly in boosting immunity, there's a key concept that is often overlooked - hormetic stress.
This biological principle is integral to understanding how our bodies respond to the heat of a sauna and how it can bolster our immune system. But what exactly is hormetic stress, and how does it enhance the immune-boosting benefits of saunas?
While it might not be a miracle cure, studies have shown that regular use of saunas can help boost the body's natural defense system against viruses. Knowing how long to stay in the sauna is important - you'll need to allow your body to gradually adjust to the heat.
With proper research and understanding of your individual needs, you could soon be on the path to improved overall wellbeing with regular sauna sessions.
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