When it comes to saunas, safety first. Here are the 9 rules of sauna safety
After a devastating end to the 2010 World Sauna Championships in Heinola, Finland, when finalist Vladimir Ladyzhenskiy from Russia died after being inside a blistering hot sauna for 6 minutes, the spotlight fell on sauna safety. How much is too much, and when is it not safe?
Some like it hot
While most people think (my fiancé included) that the hotter the better, in fact, extreme temperatures are dangerous if not used with caution. During the championships, for example, temperatures inside the wooden sauna were said to exceed a scorching 110C (230F). The contest, which had run annually since 1999, will not be held again.
That said, there are reasons that many people turn to the sauna in the name of wellness, and the tradition of sweating has been around for centuries.
The benefits of the sauna
Sweating helps eliminate toxins from the body. Heating the body’s tissues helps the body heal, much as a fever is the body’s own way of battling viruses. Saunas also improve blood circulation and relieve muscle and joint pain.
The 9 rules of sauna safety
1) Don’t stay in too long. 15 to 20 minutes at a time is generally considered the max, though other proponents say up to 30 minutes. The length of time the body can tolerate will vary from person to person. If you are sensitive to heat, start off with a short stay.
2) Rest for at least ten minutes afterward. Let your body recuperate.
3) Rehydrate. Drink plenty of water before and after. You may want to eat something salty afterward if you’ve sweat a lot.
4) Consider the Buddy System. Going into the sauna with a friend or family member isn’t a bad idea so that if problems do occur, someone has your back. Besides, a sauna is a social affair.
5) Cool down – there is a long Finnish tradition of going straight from the sauna into the snow. For a less extreme way to cool your body down, take a cold shower. Bonus: this also removes any impurities that your body has eliminated and prevents their reabsorption.
6) The heat of a sauna makes the heart work harder. Avoid the sauna if you have heart problems.
7) Never drink alcohol in the sauna and don’t go in right after a large meal or strenuous exercise.
8) Know that saunas can burn – too much time in the sauna at a too high temperature can lead to blistering. If your skin starts to sting, get out. The average sauna temperature is about 85C though it can range anywhere between 60C and 110C.
9) If you start to feel dizzy, nauseous or have a headache, leave immediately – there is no point in taxing the body to extremes – especially not in the name of wellness. Moderation is key.
Want some celebrity sauna gossip? Read about Jessica’s Biel’s accidental naked man ‘sandwich’ in Austria.
More spa? Read more about spas and wellness at my spa guide.