Infrared saunas are more closely associated with health benefits than risks. However, even though there are very few inherent dangers associated with infrared sauna use, it’s nevertheless important to understand what they are before diving head-first into your sauna session. Let’s look at some of the infrared sauna dangers, or adverse effects saunas may cause, and what you can do to make sure they don’t happen to you.
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General and specific infrared sauna dangers
The majority of sauna users will have no troubles. In the odd case, you may find yourself experiencing adverse effects from the high temperatures of sauna, especially if you find yourself under any of the following circumstances:
- Heat exhaustion or heat stroke from overheating.
- Dehydration from inadequate fluid intake.
- Consumption of alcoholic beverages during your sauna session.
- mobilized toxins in the bloodstream – the result of detoxification.
- Triggered medical conditions.
- Interference with medication.
- Adverse affect on implants.
For the healthy, unmedicated person, the high-risk symptoms from sauna overdose are the result of heating effects (dehydration, overheating, electrolyte depletion, etc.).
Persons taking prescribed medication or diagnosed with medical conditions should seek consultation with their health practitioner before undertaking sauna therapy.
Heat exhaustion and heat stroke
Even the healthiest person can have too much sauna. On such occasions, the prolonged exposure to high temperatures can cause the body to overheat beyond levels that are recoverable naturally, no matter how fit and healthy you may seem. It’s important to listen to your body during the entire period you’re in the sauna, making sure you exit as soon as your skin begins to feel clammy, or you begin to feel dizzy, nauseous or faint.
To prevent heat exhaustion and heat stroke, make sure you take a water bottle into the sauna with you to stay well hydrated. Avoid pouring this water over yourself, as it will only act to increase the humidity in the sauna and reduce your level of comfort.
Once your sauna is finished, be sure to continue consuming water for at least an hour, consuming about ½ cup water every 15 minutes as a rule of thumb.
In certain cases, it’s best to avoid the use of sauna altogether unless under the direct supervision of a medical practitioner. In particular, those using or suffering from:
- Stroke (caused by bleeding into the brain)
- Aortic stenosis
- Heart attack
- Unstable angina pectoris
- Lupus erythematosus
- Brain tumors
- Multiple sclerosis
- Silicone implants
In the following cases, it’s best to consult your doctor before making a decision on sauna therapy:
If you’ve ever experienced pain, discomfort, or any other sign of intolerance to sauna, be sure to seek advice from a medical professional before using sauna again. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
Effectiveness of certain medications can be affected by increased blood circulation and sweating caused by the sauna. If you are on any medication, it’s best to consult your doctor to be sure you’re not affected.
Examples of medication that react to sauna include:
- Transdermal (skin based) medication
Since sauna releases toxins that are stored within your fat cells, it’s entirely possible for trapped medication to also be released. Residues of anaesthetics, antidepressants, sedatives, chemotherapy, and any other medications you may have used in the past have the ability to resurface from dormant storage in your fat cells, and may cause problems when they re-enter your bloodstream. In general, any symptoms arising from this will be short lived, as your body will begin to detoxify and remove them from your bloodstream. In the meantime, you want to be sure the potential effects don’t become severe.
Past drug use
Users of psychedelic drugs (such as LSD) may experience a full blown “trip” as the result of drug residues being released from fat into the bloodstream during infrared sauna detoxification. The physiological and psychological effects of these drugs may lead to dangerous consequences for an unsupervised sauna user, so it’s best to be honest. Advise your therapist of your past drug use and arrange supervision at all times.
Long term use of infrared sauna can, in some cases, lead to depletion of vital nutrient and mineral stores. Although this would only be the case for extremely heavy sauna users, it’s important to be aware of the potential dangers for long term sauna use. If your nutrition is complete and wholesome, and you hydrate yourself adequately before, during, and after your sauna, it’s highly unlikely you’ll have any problems.
Should you enter a prescribed sauna detoxification program or commit to a long term detox strategy involving infrared saunas, you need to be sure your nutritional intake is able to support the detoxification process adequately. It may be beneficial to do your own research or speak to a qualified nutritionist for further information that’s tailored to your needs.
Electromagnetic radiation (EMF)
Infrared heaters used in modern saunas produce electromagnetic field radiation (EMF). Such radiation is also produced by any electrical or radio transmitting device, such as cell phones, Wi-Fi and microwaves. High levels of EMF have been attributed to various cancers and other health risks, so it’s important to limit your exposure to these where possible.
Although the levels of EMF produced by infrared heaters is normally low, the level can vary between brands and levels of quality in manufacture. If you’re in the market for a new sauna for your home, be sure to check the EMF rating of the heaters, and if you’re going to a spa, enquire about the rated EMF output of the system they have installed.
If you’re going to be a regular sauna customer, it’s worth investigating sooner to reduce the risk of negative health implications in future.
Safety: sweat the details
Infrared saunas are extremely safe, so long as you take the usual precautions and seek guidance from a professional medical practitioner should you have any previous conditions or abnormal symptoms.
As with all good things, you can overdo it. Be sensible with your sauna exposure and listen to your body. If it doesn’t feel right, chances are it isn’t. Take a break, and if it persists, seek professional advice.
Saunas are there to help you feel good. Follow our advice to make sure you get the most out of your sauna therapy, and sweat the bad stuff away.