Dr. Joel Schlessinger shares sauna safety tips with Univision.com
Saunas and steam rooms are thought to offer numerous health benefits, including relief for arthritis, fatigue and certain respiratory ailments. However, if used incorrectly, they can also pose real risks. In a recent article on Univision.com called “Everything you need to know before going to the sauna,” Dr. Joel Schlessinger shares his tips for staying safe and getting the most out of your sauna or steam room experience.
Always check the temperature before entering a sauna, says Dr. Joel Schlessinger.
The maximum legal temperature for a sauna in the United States is 190 degrees Fahrenheit, but many models are capable of getting much hotter. “Skin can…sustain severe burns as it would with sun exposure when subjected to high sauna temperatures,” cautions Dr. Schlessinger.
It’s also important to be mindful when touching hot surfaces and to keep an eye on the sauna control panel to be sure that the temperature stays steady and safe. Though the maximum allowance is 190 degrees, many healthcare professionals suggest dialing the temperature back to well below. Limit use to 15 minutes, and be sure to consult the posted signage, as well as staff, for tips on using the facilities correctly.
Dr. Joel Schlessinger recommends towels and shower shoes during sauna use.
The hot, humid environment created by a sauna can create an optimal environment for mildew, bacteria, viruses and fungi to thrive, including those responsible for skin conditions like warts and athlete’s foot. Always wear a towel or swimsuit, put down an extra towel for protection before sitting down and never enter without shower shoes. You should also shower or bathe before entering.
In some saunas, you might find a bucket or some other type of vessel filled with water for pouring over the coals. Though dehydration is a real concern during sauna use, you should never attempt to drink or bathe with this water, as it could contain harmful organisms and it is not fit for consumption.
Drink cool, but not cold water before entering and after exiting the sauna or steam room, and avoid drinking alcohol immediately before, during or after your session. “[Alcohol] can cause fatal dehydration [in conjunction with sauna use] and saunas should not be used as a hangover cure to ‘sweat out’ toxins,” says Dr. Schlessinger.
Consult with a physician, like Dr. Schlessinger, if you struggle with certain conditions.
Saunas and steam rooms are not safe for those who struggle with chronic health issues. Dr. Schlessinger advises: “Those with inflammatory skin conditions [like psoriasis and eczema] should avoid the sauna altogether, as should those with certain cardiovascular diseases. Medications can affect sweat production as well, so it’s always best to consult with your physician before use.”
Do you have a question about using the sauna safely? Let us know in the comments section.