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Using a steam room or a sauna is a beneficial way to relax the muscles, revitalize the skin, improve blood circulation, and ease mental stress. However, due to the extreme heat produced by these facilities, and due to the fact that most spas and saunas are public facilities, all users should take some important safety measures before stepping inside.

Determine whether the steam room or sauna is co-ed. If it is co-ed, chances are pretty good that the facility will require you to wear a bathing suit. A facility with separate rooms for men and women may establish a bathing suit-optional rule. Either way, it is a good idea to bring a towel and wear sandals into the steam room or sauna in order to shield any bare skin from the hot seating area and also protect it from the sweat produced by other users. Read all signs posted outside the facility before you robe or disrobe.

The heat in steam rooms and saunas causes the body to perspire, often in great amounts. Drink plenty of water before entering in order to combat dehydration. Also shower to remove any lotions or cleansers that are apt to melt or drip off into the facility. Also check your body for any metal (jewelry and zippers, for example) in order to prevent it from burning your body when it quickly heats up in the facility.

Don’t remain in the sauna or steam room beyond your own capacity to tolerate the heat. If you begin to feel faint, nauseated, or your heart rate begins to speed, you should exit the sauna or steam room immediately. Generally, to begin with, 8 to 10 minutes in the facility should be enough to cause your body temperature to rise and produce sweat without causing negative physical effects such as dizziness.

Take a break and cool off for a little while, and if you feel comfortable returning to the facility, spend another 5 to 10 minutes in there. While in the sauna or steam room, don’t mess with any of the controls by pouring water on steamers or adjusting the temperature dials. Speak to an employee if the temperature in the facility doesn’t seem warm enough.

Avoid jumping into a cool pool or shower right away. Spend 10 to 15 minutes letting your body adjust to cooler air temperatures in order avoid putting your body through shock when you enter the pool or shower. Drink plenty of water throughout the day to hydrate your body.

Know when not to use facilities. If you are pregnant or think you may be pregnant, abstain from using a steam room or sauna. Raising your body’s temperature to that extreme can harm the fetus. Additionally, stay out of the facilities if you have been drinking alcohol or taking illicit drugs. You should also avoid using a sauna or steam room if you are under age 18, if you suffer from circulatory problems, heart disease, high or low blood pressure, diabetes, epilepsy, or any other condition that may affect your body’s reaction to high temperatures. Consult a doctor if you believe you may have one of these conditions.