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Article: Can Using a Sauna Help Relieve Cold Symptoms? Exploring the Benefits of Sauna for Colds

Can Using a Sauna Help Relieve Cold Symptoms? Exploring the Benefits of Sauna for Colds

Can Using a Sauna Help Relieve Cold Symptoms? Exploring the Benefits of Sauna for Colds

Written by Chris Lang

Saunas have been part of wellness, especially in Finland, for centuries, and some still think they can be a solid remedy against colds. Could heat and steam help clear nasal passages and improve circulation and immunity?

This discussion examines the common cold, different types of saunas, and the science behind saunas for colds. Of course, when there are benefits, risks aren’t far behind. Also, learn the potential risks to consider to form your holistic view on how effective a sauna is for cold.

Understanding the Common Cold

The common cold is a contagious infection that affects your nose and throat. It’s called “common” for a reason: millions are infected yearly. And this has been going on since time immemorial. Caused by numerous viruses, with rhinoviruses being the most frequent, you can acquire it via droplets from someone sick when they sneeze, cough, or speak.

Signs of a common cold normally include a runny or congested nose, sneezing, coughing, a sore throat, and weariness. Some may also have mild headaches or body aches. These usually start one to three days after getting in contact with the virus and last anywhere from a week or more. Of course, the strength of your immune system will affect how quickly you can deal with this illness.

Despite there being no remedy, therapies focus on relieving symptoms and making the person feel better. Over-the-counter drugs such as painkillers and decongestants will give you some relief. Also recommended are rest, good hydration, and hot drinks like soups or teas to quell the symptoms and accelerate healing. They also warm you up and make you feel more comfortable while your body is battling the pathogen.

Cold vs. Flu: What’s the Difference?

The common cold and the flu (influenza) are both respiratory illnesses, but don’t confuse them. They have distinct symptom profiles. Flu symptoms tend to come on more suddenly and can include high fever, muscle aches, fatigue, and weakness. In contrast, cold symptoms are usually milder and limited to sneezing, a runny nose, and a sore throat. This varies from person to person, though, so sometimes the surest way to know what you have is to visit a doctor.

Additionally, colds last for a week or so, while the flu can linger for several weeks. Regarding sauna use, the intensity of sauna heat might be too taxing for those with the flu. However, someone with a mild cold might find relief from nasal congestion when inhaling the steam. In any case, it’s important to recognize the differences between the two before paying a visit to a spa.

Types of Saunas: Traditional vs. Infrared

Saunas aren’t one-size-fits-all. Infrared and traditional saunas are distinct experiences, and which is best for you will depend on what you’re looking for and what your body can tolerate.

For example, traditional saunas use hot air to warm the cabin and your body, heated by wood, gas, or electric heaters. If users need more humidity, saunas can be made more humid by pouring water over the heated stones to make the room steamier, which could help unclog nasal passages. Temperatures reach between 150 degrees Fahrenheit and 195 degrees Fahrenheit, which could also be beneficial for relieving cold symptoms, such as congestion, if you don’t have a noticeable fever.

Meanwhile, infrared (IR) saunas use infrared light panels to directly warm the body at lower temperatures of about 120 degrees Fahrenheit to 150 degrees Fahrenheit. While they aren’t as hot, they could make you sweat more. The profuse sweating from this direct heat penetration is believed to detoxify your body better. These saunas may also help improve circulation, which could aid in fighting colds and accompanying muscle aches. Saunas, like the ones from Komowa Wellness, may help those struggling with symptoms.

Infrared Saunas: A Closer Look

Let’s take a closer look at the benefits of infrared sauna. Infrared saunas are gaining attention for the clever new way of heating the user’s body and possible distinct health benefits. As mentioned, these saunas don’t heat the air but rather use infrared light panels to increase your body’s temperature by reacting to the light and penetrating deep into your skin. This heat reaches far into your body and can be quite invigorating.

The science behind this lies in the infrared spectrum and its three types of wavelengths: near, middle, and far-infrared. Most infrared saunas use far-infrared (FIR) light, which has the longest wavelength and can penetrate up to several inches deep. Some research suggests that this deep heat could, among other things, help stimulate sweat glands more efficiently to aid detoxification and improve circulation, which could help with cold symptom relief. Improved circulation can also benefit those experiencing muscle aches from a cold.

While not directly linked to using a sauna for cold, infrared, and steamy saunas could improve your overall cardiovascular health. A healthy heart and lungs will equip you with the means to fight pathogens more effectively, such as those that induce the common cold.

How Saunas Might Help With Colds

When immersed in the heat of a sauna, the body engages a physiological response that can aid in recovery. Blood vessels dilate, and circulation increases, allowing white blood cells to fight infections efficiently. Raised temperatures may even impede the growth or spread of cold-causing viruses, so people who might’ve been exposed to you when you have a cold could benefit from joining you in a sauna.

The warm air in steam-filled saunas can relieve nasal congestion, a major annoyance when having a cold. Saunas also provide a sanctuary for relaxation; reducing stress helps, too, as it may (and often does) compromise your immune system.

While “sweating out toxins” remains controversial, it could aid recovery by helping eliminate waste products. Overall, it could be a complementary measure. Although it’s not an outright cure for the common cold, it might give you great relief. Just remember to always seek advice from a healthcare professional before trying it as a remedy.

Sweating It Out: Fact or Fiction?

No matter how much you believe in it, “sweating out a cold” probably won’t work. At least, it won’t work by itself. Sweat is mostly water and salt, so while it can help release toxins, most of the pathogens causing the common cold reside in the respiratory systems.

Also, human bodies have other specialized systems for detoxification that do more than just sweating. So, if you feel better after a sauna session, it’s more likely due to relief from muscle aches or clearer nasal passages from the steam. However, that isn’t to say that sweating isn’t useful, so long as you combine it with other means to remedy the symptoms.

The Science Behind Saunas and Colds

Saunas are known for being great health promoters; science has provided clues as to why. Research in the Journal of Human Kinetics suggests regular sauna use may lower the risk of respiratory infections by imitating fever-like effects on body temperature and also help the heart. The heat also boosts blood flow, which carries immune cells throughout the body and can support its defense mechanisms. Finally, saunas give you an excellent source of relaxation, reducing stress levels that can otherwise weaken the immune system and make you feel sicklier.

Incidence and Severity of Colds: What Does the Research Say?

The relationship between regular sauna use and the incidence or severity of colds has been a topic of interest in the scientific community as of late. While research isn’t still too abundant, there are several interesting findings to note:

  • Observations highlighted that using a Finnish sauna twice a week for six months halved the incidence of the common cold in the sauna group that took part.

  • Another research discusses the potential benefits of sauna bathing in reducing the frequency and severity of COVID-19 in Finland.

  • A comprehensive review mentioned the potential of regular sauna bathing to halve the frequency of common colds in the participants who attended the sauna frequently.

Risks and Precautions

Dehydration is a major risk when sick, especially with fever or sweating. So you should approach saunas with caution when sick as they can cause more dehydration and even fainting. Worst case scenario, a sauna’s heat can worsen the body’s natural response to infections, potentially straining the heart. In short, respiratory symptoms can make breathing difficult in a sauna.

There’s also a risk of spreading or catching infections in public saunas. Speak with a doctor before using a sauna while sick, particularly if you have other underlying health issues. Drink water before, during, and after to keep yourself hydrated. Limit time inside to avoid overheating and dehydration and pay attention to dizziness or lightheadedness. If you experience these, your body is telling you it isn’t handling the heat well and it may be a good time to stop.

When to Avoid the Sauna

Using a sauna while fighting off a cold should be done with caution. While it might provide relief for some, certain conditions and situations could make it risky or counter-active.

Here’s a rundown of when it may be better to avoid a sauna:

  • Dehydration can be worsened if already present.

  • Fevers should not have external heat added to them.

  • Respiratory issues can be made worse with heat and steam.

  • Cardiac conditions can be put under more strain.

  • Public saunas may carry the risk of spreading your cold or coming into contact with other infections due to weakened immunity.

Should You Use a Sauna for a Cold?

Whether infrared or steam, saunas have long been seen as a solution to cold and flu-related woes, but the truth of the matter is still up for debate. Saunas can offer relaxation, improved circulation, and a feeling of well-being. They aid in muscle aches and some cold symptoms, though there’s no scientific evidence to support the notion of “sweating out” toxins or illnesses on its own. However, potential risks such as dehydration, exacerbated symptoms, and strain on the heart should be on your radar—especially for those with severe symptoms or underlying health conditions. Still, saunas like those from Komowa could be just what you want to ward off the pathogens.


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