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Although most of the people using saunas do not experience any troubles, there may be an odd case, where you may experience some adverse effects due to the high temperatures of the sauna, especially in the following situations:
- Overheating causing heat stroke or heat exhaustion.
- Dehydration that may be caused due to insufficient fluid intake.
- Consuming alcohol during the sauna therapy session.
- Toxins that are mobilized in the bloodstream because of detoxification.
- Interference with certain medications.
- Medical conditions that have been triggered.
- Adverse effects on implants.
If you are healthy and are not taking any medications, the symptoms caused due to an overdose of sauna are usually heating effects such as overheating, dehydration, depletion of electrolytes, etc. And, if you suffer from any medical conditions or you are taking any prescribed medications, it is a good idea to check with your medical practitioner before undergoing sauna therapy.
Even if you are extremely healthy, too much of exposure to the high temperatures of the sauna can result in the body getting overheated, beyond naturally recoverable levels. An infrared sauna uses light waves to transfer radiant heat to your body and increases the body temperature. Since the heat waves penetrate the body to around 1.5 inches, you may confuse the symptoms of overheating with the warmth or the hot sensation that you may experience in the sauna.
Overheating usually occurs if you spend more time inside the sauna than it’s normally recommended. So, it is extremely important to be cautious the entire time that you are in the sauna and if your skin begins turning clammy or you start feeling nauseous, dizzy or faint, then you should get out of the sauna immediately. A good way to avoid heat exhaustion or heat stroke is to ensure that you keep a thermometer at hand and monitor the temperature constantly and also ensure that you are well hydrated.
Another big danger of the sauna is dehydration and it is important to understand the symptoms of dehydration so that you can prevent it. If you spend around 30 minutes in the sauna, you may feel very thirsty or you may feel that your skin is very dry. However, if you are experiencing symptoms such as dry mouth, dizziness, headache and sleepiness, then you are probably suffering from dehydration. It is always a good idea to drink a lot of water before getting into the sauna and after the session too. And, avoid starting the sauna session until you are rehydrated and are feeling better.
You can take a bottle of water with you into the sauna and keep drinking. However, you must take care not to pour the water over yourself. This only will increase the humidity in the sauna and make you even more uncomfortable. Even if you have finished your sauna therapy, keep drinking water for at least 1 hour after the session and drink around half a cup of water every 15 minutes to stay hydrated. Avoid drinking sugary drinks, soda and alcohol as this can increase the risk of dehydration and also overheating.
The sweating caused due to sauna therapy and the increased blood circulation can affect the effectiveness of certain medications that you may be taking. So, if you are taking any medications it is a good idea to check with your doctor before going in for sauna therapy. Some medications that may be affected by sauna use are:
- Skin-based or transdermal medication
When you have sauna therapy, it releases the toxins which are stored in the fat cells in the body. When this occurs, some of the medications trapped in the fat cells may also be released. Any residues of sedatives, antidepressants, anesthetics, chemotherapy drugs, etc. that you have used previously which have been stored in the fat cells and have been dormant may re-emerge and re-enter the bloodstream causing problems.
While any symptoms because of this are usually temporary because as the body detoxifies, it will remove all the medication from the bloodstream; however, while it occurs, you must ensure that the potential side effects are not severe and hazardous.
If you are suffering from certain health conditions, then it is advisable to avoid using the sauna completely, unless it is under the supervision of a therapist or medical practitioner. You should be especially cautious and avoid the use of a sauna if you have suffered from:
- Heart attack
- Aortic stenosis
- Stroke (that has been caused due to bleeding in the brain)
- Lupus erythematosus
- Brain tumors
- Angina pectoris
- Multiple sclerosis
If you have are suffering from diabetes, have any implants or a pacemaker, then you should check with your doctor before taking up sauna therapy. Also, while undergoing sauna therapy, if you experience any discomfort, pain or any other signs of intolerance, check with your therapist or doctor before using the infrared sauna again.
If you have used psychedelic drugs like LSD in the past, you could experience the effects of the drug when the drug residues are released from the fat storage into your bloodstream because of the detoxification effects of infrared sauna. These drugs can have dangerous physiological, as well as, psychological effects. So, if you are going in for sauna therapy, and you have used drugs in the past then it is a good idea to be honest with your therapist and have supervised sauna sessions.
Long-term, heavy infrared sauna usage may lead to the depletion of some vital minerals and nutrients from the body in some cases. However, if you follow a diet that is nutritious and wholesome and ensures that you are well hydrated before, during and post the sauna sessions, you will not have problems.
If you have been prescribed to undergo an infrared sauna detox program or are planning to take up infrared sauna therapy for a prolonged period, then you must ensure that your nutritional intake is sufficiently wholesome and can support the detox process properly. It is a good idea to speak to a qualified dietician or nutritionist to customize your diet as per your requirements.
Infrared saunas make use of heaters that generate EMF or electromagnetic field radiation. EMF radiation is also produced by other electrical appliances and gadgets that we use everyday like mobile phones, microwave ovens, WiFi, etc. Exposure to high EMF levels has been known to increase health risks and cause problems like cancers. So, it is extremely important that you limit your exposure to EMF as much as possible.
The EMF levels produced by infrared heaters in saunas is usually quite low; however, the level can vary depending on the brand and manufacturing quality. So, if you’re planning to buy an infrared sauna for your home, it is a good idea to check the EMF rating before buying one, or if you’re going for a sauna therapy session at the spa, you should check the rated EMF level of the heaters installed in the spa sauna. And, if you are planning on using the infrared sauna on a regular basis, it is better to determine the EMF levels at the start so that you can minimize any health risks in the future.
The effects of infrared sauna on silicone implants has been a topic that has been debated for a very long time and although studies reveal that sauna therapy normally does not affect breast implants, using it for a very long period of time can have its dangers. If the silicone implants are of poor quality, then there is a possible danger of the silicone melting or getting deformed, causing the silicon shell to break or get ruptured.
Generally, silicone has a high melting point, over 392 degrees, it is still recommended that you check with your doctor and the manufacturer about the implants and ensure that it can withstand the high temperatures of the infrared sauna.
According to the International Commission on Non-ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP), the heat from infrared radiation may cause thermal injury. Prolonged exposure to infrared radiation can cause problems of hyperpigmentation. However, infrared light exposure does not cause skin cancer and other acute skin problems. So, it is recommended that you check if the infrared sauna facility is ICNIRP compliant to prevent any risk of thermal injury.
Kids are very sensitive and must be protected from extreme temperatures. However, it has been found that infrared saunas are safer for children when compared to traditional saunas as the infrared saunas are heated at much lower temperatures and also infrared saunas are more comfortable compared to regular saunas. However, to ensure that children using saunas are safe, the time they spend in the sauna should be restricted to around 15-20 minutes and you should also ensure that they are well hydrated. Also, ensure that the children are never left alone in the sauna and are supervised by an adult at all times.
Infrared saunas are very safe, as long as all the precautions are taken and you consult a medical practitioner if you suffer from any previous conditions or experience any abnormal symptoms. It is good sense to use the sauna wisely and not overdo it. Keep a watch on your body and if you don’t feel alright, then step out of the sauna immediately and if the symptoms persist, seek medical assistance. If used properly, infrared saunas are a great way to detox, relax and feel good.