Danger of sauna room

What are the disadvantages of saunas?

Since time immemorial, the sauna has been used for refreshing and rejuvenating the body and is extremely popular today. A sauna bath helps in cleansing and detoxifying the body. It also has beneficial effects on the skin and cardiovascular system. But it has disadvantages as well.

One can have burned in a sauna due to the very hot temperature of the bath or accidental touching of the tubs containing very hot water. The hot and sweaty environment can make one feel thirsty. Dehydration can occur from not taking water or fluids. But one should be cautious about drinking the water available there. It may not be clean potable water and can cause diarrhoeal disease.

As the entire body is warmed up, so are the testicles in men. This can reduce sperm count. Studies have shown a single sauna bath to reduce sperm count, which returned to normal after five weeks. Though this is reversible, repeated, exposure to saunas may impair fertility in men. Pregnant women should avoid saunas as it can cause embryonic or foetal abnormalities.

The damp and warm environment of a sauna becomes favourable for fungal infections. A person becomes more prone to develop fungal infections of the feet and or toenails.

The human body is meant to operate at a temperature of 98.4 degrees and can tolerate a little higher temperature. But exposure to temperatures around 100 degrees F or higher can be detrimental and may pose a medical emergency. Those with high blood pressure or heart problems should consult their doctor before going to a sauna.

Sauna therapy has been used for hundreds of years in Scandinavia and is an extremely health-promoting activity. Research has linked it to many benefits, especially for persons with cardiovascular ailments and skin conditions. Additionally, evidence supports the use of saunas for body cleansing and detoxification.

There are numerous general negative effects that can potentially affect anyone who steps foot into a sauna for too long, typically over a half hour or so. These effects include dehydration from too much perspiration and not enough fluid intake, overheating that can lead to heatstroke or heat exhaustion, or through mineral depletion, which causes you to lose vital electrolytes and minerals through excess sweating.

Avoid the polar plunge

Many people, especially those living in cold weather temperatures will follow up on a sauna session with a dip into freezing water. This causes a jolt that can be invigorating. People with heart and cardiovascular issues should, however, avoid the drastic change in temperature as it could expose them to health issues.

The American Heart Association warns that if you have high pressure, you should be careful about using a sauna or steam room. The sauna’s heat causes your heart rate to go up and makes your blood vessels dilate, which can cause chest pain or shortness of breath. It is safe to use a steam room if your blood pressure is under control, but you should get out immediately if you start to feel uncomfortable. Additionally, if you have suffered a recent heart attack, you should avoid using steam rooms or saunas. If you have heart or blood pressure problems, never alternate a sauna with a cold bath in quick succession.

Chronic Illness

While a steam room may relieve the symptoms of some chronic illnesses such as fibromyalgia, certain diseases may be exaggerated with its use. Asthma may worsen when the steam loosens up phlegm and material in your lungs and bronchial tubes. If you have a chronic skin condition, a steam room may produce a thermal burn, leading to a host of potential issues such as infection and pain. Avoid a steam room if you have any chronic or acute illness until you speak with your physician.

There are various negative sauna effects that can be compounded by a previous medical condition. For example, saunas may interfere with the body’s natural healing processes, so it’s recommended that they are avoided within 48 hours or so of an injury such as a sprain. If you’ve previously had a heat stroke or have had a recent heart attack, then it is recommended that saunas be avoided completely. If you are on steroids for any reason, such as for a condition such as lupus, saunas can interfere with your blood circulation and will fail to distribute the drugs properly.


Your body is meant to operate at 98.7F, and a core temperature increase to 105F constitutes a serious medical emergency. That said, temperatures of over 190F are not to be endured indefinitely. A sauna is meant to be relaxing, not a torture device. Staying inside for longer than you should as some sort of endurance activity is extremely ill-advised. In 2010, at the World Sauna Championships, one of the finalists, Russian Vladimir Ladyzhensky, died after extreme heat exposure.


Among the main drawbacks and disadvantages of sauna is that spending too much time can cause dehydration. When the time is extended even further, the continued dehydration might cause you to have low blood pressure and eventually become unconscious. One way to tell that you are dehydrated is when you start feeling weak.

It is advisable to end your time at the sauna when you start feeling weak or dizzy. Once you are out of the sauna, rehydrate by drinking plenty of water.

Don’t Drink the Water!

The heat and sweat-inducing environment of a sauna is bound to make you thirsty. However, be cautious of the water you choose to drink! Some saunas or steam baths are connected to well water or otherwise nonpotable water that is to be used for washing, not drinking. Algeria’s Université Djillali-Liabès analyzed the water from ten Turkish baths in Sidi-Bel-Abbes and found that 50% of them had fecal contamination.

Don’t Use a Sauna to Lose weight

You may have heard some ill-informed people describe a sauna as being able to “melt away the pounds.” Descriptions like that conjure up ideas of fat melting away like heated butter. However, that’s not an idea based in reality, the weight that’s lost in a sauna is largely water weight, and reductions in water weight are not effective or reliable forms of weight control, but that hasn’t stopped some people from trying. In 1991, the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Minnesota Medical School released a report outlining 14 bulimic patients. They routinely spent long periods of time in saunas as a weight-control technique. It was noted that the sauna abuse, coupled with diuretic and laxative abuse, caused all subjects to experience dehydration.

Experiencing burns

While not very common, there are instances of people using the sauna and ending up burnt. Often these are a result of coming into contact with the heater in cases of an electric sauna or the stove in case of a wood-burning sauna. Some burns may not be very serious, while others may require medical attention.

However, coming into contact with a hot surface is not the only way to get burnt. The high temperatures inside the sauna can penetrate the layers of the skin resulting in some serious injuries.

Health Risks

It takes only a few minutes for your skin to reach temperatures of 104 degrees Fahrenheit once you step into a sauna, according to Harvard Health Publications. The pulse rate increases, forcing the heart to pump more blood, which is mostly sent to the skin. This can take the blood away from your internal organs. Blood pressures can also be affected. A person with a heart condition may experience further problems in a sauna.

Increased Core Body Temperature

The body has its own internal cooling system to keep the body’s core temperature at a safe level. In extreme heat, such as a sauna or steam room, the internal cooling system becomes overloaded, especially during prolonged exposure. If the body can’t keep itself cool, your core temperature may rise to dangerous levels, according to Columbia Health. Medical conditions or alcohol consumption may increase the risks of overheating. Spend no longer than 15 minutes in a sauna to reduce your chances of overheating your body.

May Not Kill All Harmful Organisms

A warm, moist environment like a sauna can be the perfect environment for organisms to grow and thrive. Fungal infections such as athlete’s foot and toenail fungus can be easily spread under these conditions. The Journal of the American Medical Association reported a case of a young man who, after regularly using the sauna, developed fever and chills that progressed to shortness of breath and fatigue. The cause? He regularly poured water over the sauna heater from a bucket that contained mould.

A warm and wet environment is a breeding ground for bacteria and viruses. A steam room acts as an expectorant and may cause your nose to run. If a previous user had a cold or cough, his germs might be growing in the steam room. According to Mayo Clinic.com, life-threatening infections like MRSA can thrive in these environments. Protect yourself by washing hands and feet upon entering and leaving. In addition, use a towel or other protective barrier between your skin and the seats inside.

Reproductive issues

The temperature of men’s testicles will increase as the body temperature also rises. This hurts sperm count. Research shows that even while the low sperm count can be reversed, it will still take up to five weeks to bring it back up to normal sperm levels.

And men are not the only ones affected by the high temperatures. Pregnant women could also cause abnormalities in the fetus due to high body temperatures.

Men who are having trouble conceiving a child should avoid saunas or other types of heat bathing that raise the temperature in your scrotum. Sperm need slightly cooler temperatures than the rest of the body in order to thrive. The “International Journal of Andrology” reports that men who used a sauna regularly had lower sperm counts and their sperm had reduced motility. Since a man’s body is always producing new sperm, these effects are not permanent, but they do temporarily reduce fertility.

Time Frame Dangers

Their dry heat and low humidity characterize saunas. This explains why people are able to tolerate them for extended periods of time. Twenty minutes of relaxation time may be healthy, but if you use a sauna when you’re fatigued, you risk falling asleep. The excessive exposure to heat can cause dehydration and heat exhaustion.

Unsupported Health Claims

Among the reported health benefits of a sauna session is weight loss, detoxing the body and improved blood circulation. Traditional health organizations, such as Columbia Health, agree that saunas can provide relaxation but state that saunas do not remove toxins or aid in weight loss. Instead, the body loses water during the sauna session. Any weight loss from the sauna is due to the loss of water. That weight returns once you drink water.


The temperature in a steam room can double your heart rate within 10 minutes, which may have vascular implications for your body. Increased blood flow to the skin reduces the amount sent to your organs, a possible issue if you have coronary artery disease. The increased heart rate also results in the caloric burn, causing potential weight loss. This is a disadvantage if you are an athlete who needs to maintain a certain weight for optimal athletic performance. If you have high blood pressure, a steam room may increase it further. Consult your doctor or a nurse familiar with your health issues before use.

The human body is meant to operate at a temperature of 98.4 degrees and can tolerate a little higher temperature. But exposure to temperatures around 100 degrees F or higher can be detrimental and may pose a medical emergency. Those with high blood pressure or heart problems should consult their doctor before going to a sauna.

Precautions for Babies and Pregnant Women

Babies under one-year-old do not have fully developed temperature regulation systems in their bodies, which makes steam rooms unsafe for them. Children can use steam rooms for short periods of time, but they should never be unsupervised. Pregnant women should also avoid using steam rooms because the steep increase in body temperature can cause serious congenital disabilities, especially in the first trimester.

According to the March of Dimes, pregnant women who use saunas have a greater risk of miscarriage. If a pregnant woman’s body temperature becomes too high, her baby may have neural tube damage.

For anyone with respiratory problems such as asthma or allergies, a sauna may dry out the respiratory tract, so check with your healthcare professional before using one. People with heart conditions or high blood pressure should also check with a doctor before using a sauna. 

There are some safety precautions to keep in mind:

  • Drink plenty of water before and after your sauna. Due to the amount of fluid you will lose as you sweat, it is important to replace this where you can. 
  • Don’t stay in too long, 15-20 minutes at a time is enough to enjoy dry sauna benefits. 
  • Avoid the sauna if you are feeling unwell to ensure you don’t overheat or become dehydrated. 

Someone who is pregnant should avoid using a sauna, spa or steam room. During pregnancy, it can be harder to regulate your temperature, and you can be at a higher risk of overheating. 

Avoid Concerns — Use the Sauna Safely

Regularly using a sauna can rejuvenate your mind and body in ways you never imagined. The Canadian Sauna Society advises that saunas are generally safe for healthy people and are tolerated quite well. However, be smart and be safe. Don’t stay in longer than is comfortable. Do stay hydrated. Do head for the door if you begin to feel sick. Do be aware that nobody thinks it’ll happen to them.

Additionally, one of the most important requirements for sauna safety is not to combine it with alcohol use. Finland has a number of fatalities every year due to persons combining the sauna with alcohol. Don’t make this mistake. Combining alcohol consumption and the sauna can lead to serious, immediate emergencies, including cardiac arrhythmias. Furthermore, if you think the sauna is the place to “sweat it out,” think again. The risk extends to the hangover phase as well.

Some people believe that saunas detoxify the body. Still, Dee Anna Glaser, a professor of dermatology at St. Louis University, argues that although trace toxins may be released through perspiration, cooling the body is the primary purpose of sweating. In fact, Glaser believes that sweating profusely may impair the body’s natural detoxification system. The kidneys and the liver are really responsible for detoxification. If you sweat without replenishing fluids, you risk dehydration, which can impair the kidney’s ability to function.

Overuse of a hot rock sauna can result in heatstroke, dehydration, and may even be fatal in some severe cases. It’s recommended never to use a steam sauna alone and to make sure the heating element is on a timer. Also, never use a traditional sauna when tired, as it would not be recommended to fall asleep while enjoying the sauna experience.

There are other downsides to owning a hot rock sauna as well. The heaters are incredibly inefficient, and they require a lot of power in order to generate the steam needed. Some traditional saunas require up to 10 kilowatts of power. Hot rock saunas can also be a breeding ground for mould and bacteria that love a humid environment. Owners of steam saunas should clean them regularly in order to maintain the healthy benefits of a traditional sauna without endangering the health of its occupants.

While there are many advantages to a sauna, there are also some associated health risks. To reap the benefits and avoid any health-related issues, always ensure that you use the sauna the correct way. Talk to your doctor and become aware of any medical conditions that you might have. Only then will you know how to approach your sauna sessions the right way.

Scroll to Top