Things You Should Know Before Buying A Steam Shower or Sauna
1. You should be hydrated enough before entering a sauna or steam bath.
Saunas and steam showers are environments where the temperatures are especially high. These high temperatures are needed in order to get the best health benefits out of your sessions and are the essence of your whole experience inside the sauna or steam room. However, this same feature of high temperatures also makes you especially vulnerable for health risks if your body is not prepared enough for the sessions.
Saunas and steam baths will cause your body to sweat out a lot of fluid and electrolytes, much like the loss you would normally experience in rigorous exercise or physical activity. Because of this, one of the first concerns you’ll have to address is the risk of dehydration and excessive loss of important electrolytes from your body. Before stepping into a long steam bath or sauna session, make sure you are well-hydrated first. Drink a glass of water, an isotonic drink, fresh fruit juice, or a sports drink before every session. During a full 20-minute sauna session at a temperature of more than 180˚F, you can also drink a glass of fluid halfway through the session to make sure lost fluid and electrolytes are continually replaced. Without sufficient replacement, the high fluid and electrolyte loss can lead to nausea, a feeling of fatigue, a disruption in your normal heart rhythm, or heat stroke in extreme cases.
But though hydrating before the session is important, also be careful not to overdo your pre-sauna hydration. Drinking too much water or fluids can be counterproductive as well, because it can diminish the effectiveness of your body’s detoxification process during the session. One 8-oz glass of fluid should be enough for hydration if you’ve had mild to moderate physical activity during the day.
In relation to drinking, first-time sauna or steam room users also usually ask whether eating before a session is recommended or discouraged. Generally, if you need to eat before a session, a light meal is fine. However, a heavy meal right before a session is not recommended. One of the benefits you want to achieve out of a sauna or steam bath is improved blood circulation all throughout your body. Eating a heavy meal will cause your blood to pool more in your digestive tract, preoccupying a big amount of your blood for digestion. To maximize blood circulation and also prevent you from being drowsy while inside the steam or sauna room, avoid eating too much immediately before the session. In the event that you have eaten a heavy meal before a planned sauna or steam bath, allow a minimum of 1-2 hours to pass before going through with the sessions.
2. Avoid drinking alcoholic beverages and excessive caffeine intake before your sessions.
While drinking fluids before your sauna sessions is certainly recommended, the list of fluids definitely does not include alcoholic beverages and coffee. Drinking alcoholic beverages or excessive caffeine can pose serious health risks when coupled with the heat exposure you get from steam rooms and saunas. Alcoholic beverages can increase your risk for dehydration, as well as affect your mood and impair your judgment. They can also reduce your ability to control your movement and balance, additionally posing the hazards of accidental slips and falls while inside the steam baths or saunas. Caffeine can also raise your risk for dehydration, so it’s best to steer clear of caffeine-rich beverages and food before your sauna sessions.
3.Avoid diuretics, other antihypertensive drugs, and medications that can potentially affect your body’s fluid-electrolyte balance before your sauna or steam bath sessions.
Any of these substances can also raise the health risks involved in sauna sessions and use of steam baths. Diuretics, or also commonly called water pills, are substances used in medicine to stimulate increased urination by the body. These drugs are usually prescribed for conditions such as high blood pressure and kidney problems. Because of the increase in amount and frequency of urination that they cause, they also increase your risk of dehydration. Some types of diuretics also excrete potassium, an essential electrolyte in your body. This loss, combined with the electrolyte loss you’ll normally experience through sweating during saunas, can also pose a health risk. Typical examples of diuretics that you may be familiar with are Lasix, Aldactone, Inspra, and Dyrenium.
Similarly, if you are taking an antihypertensive medication or any drug that affects your blood pressure in any way, it’s best to consult with your doctor first before taking a sauna or steam bath. The high temperatures in steam baths and saunas open up your blood vessels and may cause changes in your blood pressure, so your body’s reaction to the usual antihypertensive drugs you may be taking will also be altered. An extreme drop in blood pressure can cause dizziness or fainting. If you’re not sure whether you’re taking a drug that may adversely affect your body’s reaction to saunas or steam baths, check with your doctor first before rushing in.
4. Remove jewellry and any other metal piercing you may have.
Metal jewellery and piercings will conduct heat and gradually get hot once inside the heated sauna or steam baths. If allowed to remain on the body, they can cause burns on your skin. Most sauna rooms and steam baths in spas or wellness clinics provide users with secure lockers for the safekeeping of their valuables while using the spa’s services. If you’re not comfortable leaving your jewellery or other valuables in these lockers, it would be best if you leave out putting on jewellery when you’re about to head out for a session at the sauna or steam room.
Also, when inside saunas and steam baths, it is recommended that you leave on as little clothing as possible. This will allow the room’s heat to penetrate your body better and more evenly, so you get to receive the sessions’ maximum health benefits. If you’ll be in a shared room and are not comfortable being totally naked with strangers, any piece of clothing you leave on should be made of light fabric and loose fitting enough for heated air to still circulate through.
5. Look for additional safety features inside the sauna or steam room.
Two of the most basic safety devices you should find in a good sauna or steam room are timers and thermometers. Time inside a sauna room is limited not entirely for commercial purposes when offered by a spa or wellness clinic. Research suggests that maximum health benefits are said to be achieved in no more than 20 minutes per session. Any more time exceeding that has the potential to cause unnecessary overheating of the body. Thus timers are an important safety device for any sauna or steam room. A heated environment has the potential of leaving you drowsy, so having a timer alarm will also safeguard you from the risk of falling asleep inside the heated room for an extended period of time. Some timers even have the feature of automatically turning off the heat once the set time is consumed. This is especially useful for a home sauna where you may be enjoying sessions alone and with nobody to wake you up when it’s time to leave the sauna room.
A thermometer or thermostat is another basic device you’ll find in a sauna or steam room. It can help you to maintain the room’s temperature to the recommended level, or that which you find most comfortable. For saunas, the typical temperature advised is between 175 and 210˚F, with most users usually opting for a temperature of 180˚F. For traditional saunas, the room humidity level is typically low (below 30%), but can be adjusted by the users by ladling water on heated rocks to create steam and make the dry heat of saunas more comfortable. As for the steam room, temperatures are maintained at around 120˚F, while humidity levels are raised at 100%.
6.Allow your body to adjust to the heat first, and limit each session to a maximum of 20 minutes.
As mentioned in Tip #5, the recommended amount of time to spend per session is 20 minutes. Especially when it comes to saunas where the temperatures maintained are higher, make sure you start slow. High temperatures will cause significant changes in your body, such as increased heart rate, increased metabolism, and raised core body temperature. If you’ll be using a sauna for the first time, don’t expect your body to tolerate the full 20 minutes the first time around. First-time sauna users are advised to allow their bodies to acclimatize to the heated environments first by limiting initial sessions to 5 minutes only, in temperatures of less than 170˚F.
Once your body gets more comfortable in coping with the heat, you can gradually increase both the temperature level and the amount of time you spend inside the room per session. For each session, slowly build up to the level you find acceptable and comfortable until you reach the 20-minute mark for full sessions. An additional tip for conditioning your body to the heat before stepping into the room is also to take a lukewarm shower prior to the session. This shower will prep your skin better, moistening it and washing away surface dirt and dust so your pores can open up better once you’re inside the sauna or steam room.
Additionally, if your sauna room features benches of varying heights, it would also help to know that the lower benches offer the lowest temperature levels in the room because hot air rises. If you’re just starting out, start by lying down on the lower bench and gradually work your way up in the succeeding sessions as you get used to the heat. However, note that this technique is not applicable to infrared saunas, where your body—not the surrounding room air—is the one directly heated. In this type of saunas, you will typically be advised to maintain a sitting position instead for the best results.
7.Leave the room whenever you start feeling dizzy or ill.
When you’re already feeling ill even before the session starts, it would be wise to pass up on the session altogether. The heated environment will make additional demands on your body, and if you’re not feeling well even before the sauna or steam bath has started, it’s unlikely that you’ll feel any better during the sessions.
Also, whenever you start feeling lightheaded or unwell anytime during the session, leave the room immediately so your body can begin cooling down.
8.If you are pregnant or have a heart condition, don’t engage in a sauna or steam bath session without the approval of your health care provider.
As discussed above, saunas and steam baths cause changes in your body’s processes and functions, especially those of your heart, blood vessels, and body temperature regulation. If you are pregnant, have hypertension, have a history of heart attack, have been experiencing undiagnosed chest pain, or any other heart condition, don’t assume it’s safe for you to go inside a sauna or steam room without first consulting with your physician. Also, if you are over the age of 60, you are considered at high risk for undiagnosed heart diseases, so check with your doctor first. Sauna and steam bathing are practices people engage in for health and wellness purposes, but engaging in them without taking proper precautions first can lead to health risks.
9. Don’t rush to dress up afterwards.
After your sauna or steam bath, it is expected that your body will continue to sweat so it can cool down properly. Getting dressed immediately after the session can interfere with your body’s cooling down processes. It is recommended that you rest on a chair for about 10-20 minutes after the session to allow your body to cool down.
10. Take a cool-down shower and replenish fluids after your sauna or steam bath.
Taking a cool-down shower with either warm or cool water after the session will wash away residue sweat and assist your body in cooling down. Also, drinking additional fluids afterwards will further help in the cooling down process, as well as replace the fluids you lost in the sauna or steam bath’s heated environments.