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Should You Sauna When Sick? What You Need to Know

A woman with a cold, wrapped in a blanket and holding a tissue, with a traditional sauna in the background. This image highlights the concept of using a sauna when sick to alleviate symptoms.

Ever caught yourself sneezing and coughing, wondering if a hot sauna might ease those annoying cold symptoms? You’re not the only one pondering this—many share the same curiosity.

It turns out that nearly one in three people believe that the warmth of a sauna can ease a cold or flu. However, the use of a sauna when sick with illnesses like high fevers or serious respiratory issues is a bit more contentious, with experts divided on whether the heat helps or hinders recovery.

Let’s break down the facts about hitting the sauna when you’re sick to see if it can be part of your get-well-soon plan.

We’ll check out what happens in your body when you sit in that warm space and whether it helps or hurts when you’re trying to recover from an illness.

Key Takeaways: Should You Use a Sauna When Sick?

Using a sauna when sick can be beneficial, but it’s not suitable for everyone and in every situation. Here are the essential points to consider before making a decision:

  • Assess Your Condition: Saunas can relieve symptoms like congestion in mild cases (e.g., common cold without fever) but might be risky with severe symptoms like high fever or respiratory issues.
  • Alternative Methods: Consider safer alternatives such as steam inhalation or warm baths if your condition or symptoms suggest that using a sauna could be harmful.
  • Consultation is Key: Make sure to consult a healthcare provider before using a sauna when sick, especially if you have chronic health issues or severe symptoms.
  • Listen to Your Body: Monitor how you feel during and after using a sauna and stop immediately if your symptoms worsen.

Types of Saunas

Before we dive deeper, let’s quickly introduce the three main types of saunas for those who might not be familiar. Each delivers a unique sauna experience.

  • Traditional Saunas:
    • Traditional saunas, often called Finnish saunas, use a heater to warm up rocks, which then radiate heat throughout the room.
    • They typically operate at higher temperatures, around 150 to 195 degrees Fahrenheit, making you sweat profusely.
    • If you’re someone who loves the feeling of intense heat, a traditional sauna could be just right for you.
  • Steam Saunas:
    • Also known as steam rooms, these saunas generate moist heat with temperatures around 110 to 120 degrees Fahrenheit.
    • The high humidity in steam saunas helps open up your airways, making it easier to breathe and soothing for those with chest congestion or sinus issues.
  • Infrared Saunas:
    • Infrared saunas make use of infrared light to create heat, warming your body directly without excessively heating the air around you.
    • This type of sauna is milder, operating at lower temperatures of about 120 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit, which can be more comfortable for people who prefer a less intense heat experience.

Benefits of Sauna When Sick

A woman sitting and relaxing in a traditional sauna, enjoying the heat therapy in a wooden sauna room.

When you’re feeling under the weather, the right kind of warmth might just be what the doctor ordered. Saunas bring together soothing heat and total relaxation, great for easing nasal congestion and melting away stress.

But what exactly happens in your body during a sauna session when you’re sick? Let’s look at how saunas can help you in managing your symptoms and speeding up your recovery.

1. Boosting Your Immune System with Sauna Therapy

When you step into the heat of a sauna, something remarkable happens in your body.

Saunas elevate your body temperature, simulating a fever. This ‘fake fever’ stimulates your immune system, enhancing the production of antibodies and white blood cells. It’s like giving your body’s defense system a quick training session.

One chilly evening, battling a relentless cold, I decided to spend some time in my infrared sauna. The gentle heat not only soothed my aching muscles but also seemed to boost my spirits. I noticed that regular sauna sessions made me feel less susceptible to colds over time.

Studies from Finland show that regular sauna sessions can reduce the frequency of colds and respiratory infections by stimulating the immune response.

Regular sauna users often experience fewer colds thanks to this immune boost.

“Regular sauna use can create a mild increase in body temperature that stimulates the immune response, similar to how the body naturally fights infections.” – Dr. Lena Thompson, an immunologist

2. Natural Relief for Cold Symptoms: Saunas vs. Medications

If you’ve ever felt stuffed up and miserable with a cold, you know relief can’t come quickly enough.

I remember last winter when I was battling a stubborn cold, I decided to give my sauna a try. The warmth enveloped me, and within minutes, my congestion seemed to ease.

Steam saunas shine here, offering a warm, moist environment that can help break up mucus and clear your airways, making them a natural complement to cold medications.

Instead of relying solely on decongestants, a session in a steam sauna can provide a comforting, medication-free way to breathe easier.

3. Evaluating Sauna Use for Respiratory Health

Saunas, particularly steam rooms, are beneficial for those struggling with congestion and respiratory issues.

I recall a time when my sinuses were completely blocked. Stepping into a steam room felt like a breath of fresh air—literally. The steam helped moisturize and soothe my irritated airways, which was a blessing during my cold.

Infrared saunas provide gentle heat that penetrates deep into the tissues without overwhelming the respiratory system. This gentle heat is especially good for folks with chronic respiratory issues because it soothes without the intense heat that can make things worse.

It’s always a good idea to consult with a healthcare provider if your respiratory symptoms are more than just the common cold.

Caution: Dr. Mark Benson, a pulmonologist, advises, “Patients with severe respiratory infections should be cautious about using saunas as the heat can exacerbate certain symptoms.”

4. Easing Muscle and Joint Pain with Infrared Sauna Heat

A collage of athletes experiencing muscle pain and joint pain, showing the physical strain from intense activities.

My friend Aarti, who suffers from chronic fatigue, swears by her infrared sauna. She shared, ‘Whenever I feel the onset of a cold, I spend 20 minutes in my sauna. It feels like a gentle hug that eases my body aches and helps me recover faster.’

If you’re feeling achy from a cold or the flu, an infrared sauna might be your best friend. Unlike traditional saunas that get very hot, infrared ones gently warm you up.

This deep, soothing heat can ease your muscle and joint pain without overwhelming your body. It’s like a gentle hug that helps chase away the aches and speeds up your recovery.

5. Combating Seasonal Allergies with Sauna Sessions

Seasonal allergies can turn anyone’s day upside down. Luckily, stepping into a sauna might help you feel better.

The heat works like a charm to sweep away allergens from your nasal passages and soothe inflammation. So whether it’s a steamy room or a dry sauna, you can expect some relief from the sneezing and itchy eyes that allergies bring.

6. Reducing Stress from Sickness with Sauna Therapy

Being ill isn’t just a physical battle; it’s a mental one too. That’s where saunas come in—they’re fantastic at melting away stress.

As the heat washes over you, it encourages your body to release endorphins, those wonderful chemicals that lift your spirits and help you unwind.

Lowering your stress in this way not only feels great but also helps you heal faster, as a calm body recovers better.

7. Enhancing Sleep Quality with Sauna Heat When Sick

Nothing heals the body like a good night’s sleep, especially when you’re sick. But when you’re tossing and turning with a fever or a stuffy nose, sleep can be elusive. Here’s a tip: try a sauna session.

The warmth gently raises your body temperature, and as it drops afterward, it signals to your body that it’s time to wind down. Many find that they sleep much deeper after a sauna, finally getting the rest they need to fight off illness.


Risks of Using a Sauna When Sick

While saunas offer numerous health benefits, there are situations where caution is necessary, especially when you are unwell. Understanding these risks can help you decide whether or not to use a sauna during illness.

Dehydration: The Hidden Danger of Heat

Saunas naturally cause the body to sweat, which can lead to dehydration. This risk is heightened when you’re sick, as your body may already be losing fluids through fever or respiratory symptoms.

Dehydration while sick can worsen symptoms like dry mouth, headaches, and dizziness, slowing down your recovery.

Expert Insight: Dr. Sarah, a general practitioner, advises, “Always hydrate more than usual before and after sauna sessions, especially if you’re battling an illness, to counteract the dehydration risks.”

Overheating and Fever: Too Much Heat Can Harm

A sauna raises your core temperature, and using a sauna when you already have a fever can be dangerous.

The additional heat can push your body’s temperature to unsafe levels, potentially leading to heatstroke—a severe and sometimes life-threatening condition.

So, if you have a high fever, it’s better to avoid the sauna until your temperature is under control.

A woman in bed checking her temperature with a thermometer, looking concerned about her health.

Heart Stress: Caution for Those with Cardiac Conditions

The high temperature in saunas can increase heart rate and blood pressure, posing risks to individuals with heart conditions.

Medical Advice: Cardiologist Dr. Emily Hart comments, “Patients with cardiovascular diseases should consult their doctors before using saunas, as the stress on the heart can lead to complications.”

Pregnancy Precautions With Saunas

Pregnant women need to be particularly cautious with sauna use. High temperatures can affect fetal development and increase the risk of complications.

It’s advisable for pregnant women to discuss any sauna use with a healthcare professional.

Guidelines: The American Pregnancy Association suggests pregnant women avoid prolonged exposure to high-heat environments like saunas, especially during the first trimester.

Respiratory Issues: When Heat Makes Breathing Harder

While mild respiratory conditions might benefit from the humid air of a steam sauna, for those with severe respiratory issues, the heat and steam of a sauna may exacerbate symptoms such as shortness of breath and wheezing.

Health Tip: Dr. Mark Benson, a pulmonologist, recommends that “individuals with acute respiratory infections should avoid saunas to prevent symptom aggravation.”

Germs Exposure in Public Saunas

Using public saunas can expose you to germs and viruses, especially if the facilities are not properly cleaned. This increases the risk of contracting or spreading infections, particularly when your immune system is compromised.

Safety Measures: Ensure the sauna is well-maintained and clean, and consider using a private sauna if possible to minimize exposure to pathogens.


How to Safely Use a Sauna When Sick

Using a sauna when you’re not feeling well can be beneficial, but it’s crucial to approach this practice with caution to avoid any complications. Here’s how you can enjoy the warmth of a sauna safely:

Hydration: The First Rule of Sauna Use

Staying hydrated is essential, especially when you’re sick. The heat of a sauna intensifies dehydration, which can worsen your illness or lead to new health issues.

“I always make sure to drink at least a liter of water before I head into the sauna,” says Mike, a regular sauna user who learned the hard way about dehydration after fainting during a session. “Now, I keep a water bottle with me during the sauna and sip regularly.”

An empty modern sauna room with wooden benches and a bucket, ready for a rejuvenating sauna session.

Duration and Temperature: Finding the Right Balance

The trick to getting the most out of a sauna session is knowing when to step out before it gets too intense.

Guidelines to follow:

  • Keep sessions short when sick, ideally between 5 to 15 minutes.
  • Set the sauna temperature to a lower range, around 150°F (65°C), which is sufficient to induce sweating without overwhelming your body.

Monitoring Symptoms: Know When to Step Out

Pay close attention to how you feel during your sauna session. Symptoms like dizziness, exacerbated coughing, or increased discomfort are signals that it’s time to leave.

Laura shares, “Once, I ignored my headache because I wanted the full sauna experience. That was a mistake. I ended up feeling worse. Now, the moment I feel off, I step out immediately.”

Cooling Down Gradually

After your sauna session, allow your body to cool down slowly.

Effective cooling down strategy:

  • Exit the sauna and sit in a cooler area for at least a few minutes.
  • Avoid cold showers or cold plunges right after as they can shock your system, instead opt for lukewarm water if you need to rinse off.

Quick Safety Checklist for Using a Sauna When Sick

ActionDetails
HydrateDrink plenty of water before, during, and after your sauna session.
Watch the ClockLimit your sauna time to a maximum of 15 minutes.
Monitor Your BodyListen to your body’s signals and exit the sauna if you start feeling worse.
Cool Down SlowlyGradually adjust back to normal temperatures; avoid sudden temperature changes.

Alternatives to Sauna Use When Sick

While saunas have their benefits, they may not always be suitable when you’re feeling unwell with severe illness or if you’re dealing with certain health risks. Here are a few safer alternatives that can provide similar relief without the associated risks:

1. Steam Inhalation: Direct Relief for Respiratory Issues

Steam Inhalation can help clear congestion and hydrate your respiratory passages, offering a targeted approach to relieve symptoms of colds or respiratory infections.

Why Choose This Over a Sauna: Steam inhalation focuses directly on the affected area—your respiratory system—without raising your overall body temperature.

2. Warm Baths: Comfort Without Overheating

A warm bath can help reduce body aches and promote relaxation, much like a sauna, but with more control over temperature and duration.

Why Choose This Over a Sauna: Baths provide the warmth needed to soothe aching muscles without the intense heat that can exacerbate fever or heart conditions.

3. Heated Blankets and Warm Compresses: Targeted Warmth

An electric heated blanket spread on a bed with pillows and a control switch, providing warmth and comfort.

For targeted relief, heated blankets and warm compresses can be applied to specific areas like muscles or sinuses to alleviate pain or congestion.

Why Choose These Over a Sauna: These methods offer controlled, localized heat to ease discomfort without the potential dehydration or systemic stress of a sauna.

So, when you’re suffering from severe sickness or dealing with certain health conditions, choosing a milder form of heat therapy can be more beneficial and safer than using a sauna. These alternatives allow you to manage symptoms effectively without the risks of overheating or exacerbating other health issues.


Conclusion: Making the Right Choice About Sauna Use When Sick

Deciding to use a sauna when sick should be based on a careful understanding of your specific symptoms and overall health.

If you’re dealing with mild symptoms, a brief sauna session could help. However, for more severe symptoms or conditions, opting for less intense alternatives and consulting with a healthcare professional is advisable.

Always prioritize your well-being and safety based on your health status.

Does this guide answer the question- Should you sauna when sick? Please share your own experiences or advice. Join the conversation down below, we are here to help! 


FAQs About “Should You Sauna When Sick”

1. Is it good to go in the sauna when sick?

Using a sauna when sick can provide relief for mild cold and flu symptoms like congestion and muscle aches. However, if you have a high fever, severe respiratory conditions, or chronic health issues, it’s best to avoid the sauna and consult a healthcare professional first.

2. Is a sauna good for a cough?

Saunas, particularly steam saunas, can help soothe a cough by providing moist heat that loosens mucus and clears airways. However, if the cough is severe or accompanied by other serious symptoms, it’s best to consult a healthcare professional.

3. Is a sauna good for respiratory infections?

Saunas, especially steam saunas, can be beneficial for mild respiratory infections by providing congestion relief and soothing irritated airways. However, for severe respiratory infections or chronic conditions, it’s important to consult a healthcare professional before using a sauna.

4. Is sweating good when you are sick?

Sweating can help relieve symptoms like muscle aches and congestion, but it’s important to stay hydrated. While sweating in a sauna can provide temporary relief, it’s not a substitute for proper medical care and hydration.

5. When should you not use a sauna?

Avoid using a sauna if you have a high fever, severe respiratory conditions, cardiovascular issues, or if you’re pregnant without consulting a doctor. Additionally, if you’re dehydrated or feeling excessively weak, it’s best to skip the sauna.

6. How long should I sit in a sauna?

When using a sauna, especially when sick, it’s best to keep sessions short, ideally between 5 to 15 minutes. This duration allows you to experience the sauna benefits, such as heat therapy and stress reduction, without overwhelming your body. Always listen to your body and hydrate well before and after the session.


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