Infrared saunas are an innovative mode of the traditional sauna where you will be in a chamber, but instead of using hot rocks and steam to heat the air around you, the infrared sauna will directly heat the person in the sauna.
Since the use of infrared waves allows a quicker and more direct impact on the cells of the body, the infrared sauna can cause people to sweat at much lower temperatures compared to traditional saunas. But are infrared saunas always good for you? The following are some of the risks infrared saunas may pose.
Infrared saunas are known to generate dry heat. The infrared sauna uses electromagnetic radiation through infrared lamps which heat your body directly instead of the air around you.
In other words, there will be no moisture or steam in an infrared sauna. In fact, even the air around you will be cool. The infrared sauna will heat the material directly—in this case, the material being the occupant of the infrared sauna.
However, just because the sauna uses dry heat does not mean it cannot cause overheating. In fact, an infrared sauna can generate more heat even at a lower temperature than regular saunas, causing you to sweat more. Since the temperature is lower and you feel no external discomfort, you may not realize when your body has overheated or when you are dehydrated.
Sometimes, it can be too late before you realize and dizziness may set in. This is a special concern for the elderly as they may get dizzy and fall, injuring themselves as a result.
The overheating and dehydration resulting from it can also cause blood pressure to drop. Low blood pressure leads to dizziness and can make you feel disoriented for a while, even after recovery. One may feel fatigue for a few hours after a sudden drop in blood pressure, and a feeling of cold sweats is expected.
For those who already have a problem of hypotension, it is best to avoid exposure to a sauna for too long, infrared or otherwise. A few minutes in the sauna is supposed to be beneficial for those with hypertension.
The infrared sauna provides a gentler heat so the body gives into the relaxing feeling, neutralizing its stress response which in turn reduces blood pressure. So if you already have low blood pressure, it may aggravate the problem.
There is also some evidence to suggest prolonged exposure to infrared saunas may affect sperm motility and health in males, though further research is required into this field.
The findings of the study is based on the analysis that high temperatures alter the behavior of sperm and can have a long-term impact. The study, however, also finds that the alteration in sperm behavior is reversible, though it does raise questions about what the long-term impact may be.
If you have a weak or an unsteady heart, you should avoid the sauna. The heat from the infrared sauna will cause the vessels to expand and will increase the circulation of blood, as a result the heart rate will rise.
While this can be a good exercise for the heart as it will pump more blood, if you already have a weak heart or suffer from heart disease, that kind of strain on your heart may not prove to be beneficial.
So if you wear a pacemaker or have a history of strokes, you may want to consult your physician before booking yourself an infrared sauna appointment.
Again, the study on saunas is still in the preliminary stages so while there may be findings that say a good sauna session can be good for the heart, it is important to consult a doctor before taking the plunge.
An infrared sauna is not a safe place for pregnant women. High temperatures can cause dizziness, low blood pressure and a rapid heart rate, which will in turn have an impact on the baby. If the mother’s body temperature rises above 38°C (100.4°F) that is a state of fever, which may risk hyperthermia for the baby.
This is especially dangerous during the first trimester, but can be harmful for the foetus throughout the pregnancy. Besides, the lowered blood pressure and dizziness can also cause people to lose balance and fall, which can be especially dangerous for pregnant women and the elderly.
While there is some evidence to suggest that infrared saunas can help heal wounds faster as infrared light helps promote tissue growth, it may still not be the best idea to sit in a commercial infrared sauna with an open wound.
Simply from the point of view of hygiene, there is a danger of exposing yourself to infections through the open wound. Somebody may have used the sauna before you, or the establishment may not have done a thorough job of sanitizing it before you can use it. Even if you have an infrared sauna at home, you cannot be completely certain of whether you have sanitized it enough to avoid infections.
This is one of the biggest concerns with infrared saunas. As mentioned earlier, infrared saunas rely on electromagnetic radiation to heat the body. Electromagnetic fields are present in all infrared saunas, but the degree to which you are exposed to them make all the difference.
Long-term exposure to high EMFs can cause a range of health problems, such as chronic fatigue, insomnia, depression, etc. Unless an infrared sauna specifies otherwise, it is assumed that the EMF exposure in the sauna is likely to be high.
Infrared saunas can be highly beneficial technologies in several cases. They help you sweat and reduce inflammation at a much lower temperature than traditional saunas, and can be good for able-bodied people for short durations.
But there are some drawbacks that one must be cognizant of even though infrared saunas are largely safe types of saunas to use. The factors that have been described above elaborate on those specific risks.