What is a Steam Bath
Steam baths provide a variety of health and beauty benefits, suitable for almost anyone. Warm, moist heat supplies sink in to the skin, joints and muscles. The skin first responds by opening the pores, cleaning several layers deep into the dermis. Perspiration carrying the body’s toxins can seep out of the enlarged pores with ease. The body reacts by relaxing sore muscles and improving blood flow, bringing more oxygen and nutrients to all areas of the body, even the most delicate capillaries. A steam bath—also called steam shower, hot springs, sweat lodge, wet sauna, hydrotherapy and hot bath—is safe and beneficial for almost every age and medical condition.
The Bold and the Beautiful
How often you should take a steam bath is a personal matter for most. History gives hints. Since early civilization, societies used steam baths for a variety of reasons, particularly for health and beauty benefits, but also for social interaction too. The earliest use of steam bathing occurred in prehistoric times. Humans used the steam vapors that oozed from the earth’s volcano cracks for cleansing and healing the sick and incurable. Later, in ancient Rome, public baths, supported by natural hot springs, were open all Romans, regardless of the social class. Bathers enjoyed wrestling and dancing in the baths, often throughout the day, taking breaks periodically to cool down before reentering.
In colonial times, Benjamin Franklin used to take a daily steam bath by an open window. He believed that every illness or disease could evaporate through the skin, once the pores are open and exposed to fresh air. For an hour after a morning steam bath, he exposed his unclothed skin to the fresh outdoor air. During colonial times, a weekly hot bath with plenty of steam was a remedy for typical medical alignments.
Today, not much has changed. Steam baths are both private and semi-private enterprises, promoting health and relaxation, provided by fitness centers, spas and wellness clinics. Steam vapors, provided by a hot bath at home, give you the same health and beauty benefits as the commercial grade versions. Health personnel—from personal trainers to cardiologists—recommend a weekly regular steam bath.
Who Can Use a Steam Bath
Most healthy adults can take a weekly steam bath for routine cleansing and relaxation but may opt for one per day. Sometimes athletes and other fitness enthusiasts, take a steam bath before and after a workout. Those who have acne, sore muscles and joints, depression, anxiety and arthritis are among the bathers who may take up to two per day, unless a doctor advises otherwise.
For those under 13 or those over 65 years of age, take a weekly steam bath, unless your doctor recommends otherwise. Do not give an infant or toddler a steam bath without talking to a pediatrician first. If you are over 65 or have a physical disability, use an auxiliary aid or have someone to assist you in and out of the steam bath or bathtub if needed.
Limiting Steam Baths
Studies show that a steam bath is safe and beneficial for patients with end-stage heart failure, so even patients with serious medical conditions may enjoy one. However, a steam bath is not a prescription for everyone. Your doctor may advise against it or limiting its frequency and duration. Moreover, bathers who use durable medical equipment may need to disconnect the equipment before bathing, and this may place some patients in a grave danger.
Avoid using a steam bath if you have an open or infected wound. Frequent steam baths may cause dry, flaky skin on sensitive skin types, especially during the winter months. Limit your steam baths to once a week, until your personal preferences and sensitivities become clear. A regular steam bath may be once a week for one healthy adult, but three times a week for another.
Always use caution when taking a steam bath, limiting it to only 15 to 20 minutes at a time and allowing a cooling off period of 20 minutes before reentering for additional therapy. Always take a cool shower after using a commercial-grade steam bath and drink plenty of water. If at any time during the steam bath, you feel overheated or uncomfortable, step out of the bath immediately and rest.
Cheryl Myers has has a master's degree from Saint Leo University and currently writes for several publications including Fit Pregnancy, Guideposts and Parent's Magazine.