Steam Rooms, Saunas, Whirlpools

Hospitals & Locations > TriHealth Fitness & Health Pavilion

saunaBoth the men's and women's locker rooms are equipped with a steam room, sauna and whirlpool. So you can enjoy our facilities and make good decisions about using our saunas and steam room, here is information about both health risks and benefits associated using these club amenities as outlined by Doug Linz, MD.

Benefits of using steam rooms or saunas

  • Both steam rooms and dry saunas cause the blood vessels in the skin to dilate, in part accounting for the warm glow appearance afterwards. The blood flow out of the heart increases by 2 or more times after a 10 to 15 minute steam room or sauna exposure.
  • Heat has long been recognized as beneficial for folks with fibromyalgia, arthritis and other painful conditions.
  • Heat tends to cause relaxation of the muscles and many individuals note improved recovery of muscle soreness and decreased problems with delayed muscle soreness when they use a sauna or steam room after exercise.
  • With this muscle relaxation and a reduction in the sense of stress and anxiety, many people find use of steam rooms and saunas improves the quality of their sleep.
  • Steam heat (not dry heat) can have therapeutic benefits for thinning mucous, making it easier for some individuals to cough up phlegm. It also can free up sinus passage ways and Eustachian tubes in individuals with sinus and Eustachian tube problems. Beware, however, this same effect can trigger tightness in some asthmatics and other individuals with lung disease, particularly if they have noted problems when taking a steamy shower previously.

Risks of using steam rooms or saunas

  • Since so much blood is being directed to the skin, the blood flow to the internal organs actually decreases. This can be a problem for people with coronary heart disease, for example, if they use steam rooms or saunas believing it will be good for their “circulation”. Further, people with hard-to-control hypertension (high blood pressure) may experience worsening blood pressure in response to heat exposure. In addition, many blood pressure medications interfere with the normal response of the body to heat exposure.
  • If heat exposure is extreme, excessively prolonged, or if the individual has underlying irritation of the skin, heat can cause the equivalent of a sunburn, or thermal burn. In addition, steam exposure may be a concern if you have had recent surgery (particularly if sutures are still in place) or if you have an open or infected wound.
  • The effect of both wet and dry heat to increase fluid loss from the body can also be a problem, particularly in folks who are already somewhat dehydrated (e.g. after heavy exercise with inadequate fluid replacement or in response to the diuretic effects of caffeine, beverage alcohol, and medications (diuretics). Dehydration can be a problem in people who have blood vessel blockages to the brain and the heart. Some individuals experience an increase in their migraine headaches in response to dehydration.
  • There are a number of other medications that can affect the body’s normal response to heat. People taking certain medications should not use a steam room or sauna, except after having consulted with a physician.
  • Individuals should be cautioned about falling asleep in a steam room or sauna, which can cause serious health concerns if heat exposure is too prolonged.

Recommendations

  • Avoid alcoholic beverages, excessive caffeine intake, and medications that may impair sweating or increase the health risks from heat exposure.
  • Stay in a sauna or steam room no more than 15 to 20 minutes at a time.
  • Cool down gradually after use. Avoid going rapidly from a hot to a cold environment, e.g. sauna cold shower as this increases the physiologic stress on the body considerably.
  • Drink 2 to 4 glasses of cool water after each session.
  • Don’t take a sauna or steam bath if you are ill, and head for the door if you find yourself feeling unwell while in a steam room or sauna.
  • Ask your health care provider for advice and recommendations if you have any concerns about potential health risks from steam room or sauna use.
  • We want all of our guests and members to enjoy our facilities. We ask all our members to be considerate of the sensitivities of other users related to nakedness.

References

  • Simon, Harvey, MD Editor in Chief, Harvard Men’s Health Watch, as cited in Sauna Health Benefits: Are Saunas Health or Harmful? Harvard Health Publications, Harvard Medical School. http://www.health.harvard.edu/press_releases/sauna_health_benefits (accessed 11/15/2010).
  • Kukkonen-Harjula K, Kauppinen K. Health Effects and Risks of Sauna Bathing. International J Cicumpolar Health 65:3;2006.
  • Douglas Linz, MD, Medical Director, TriHealth Corporate Health, Email: douglas_linz@trihealth.com, telephone: 977-0016.

 

We are physicians, hospitals and communities working together to help you live better.