A sauna is a small, enclosed, heated environment that can quickly increase your body temperature to about 104 degrees Fahrenheit, according to Harvard Health Publications. This heating allows your metabolic rate and pulse rate to increase, gives your blood vessels more flexibility and induces extreme sweating, according to Health Services at Columbia University. These changes in your body may generate feelings of inner peace, lucidity, rejuvenation and increased sensitivity, but exposure to extreme heat can also be dangerous. The best way to use a sauna is to be in tune with your body through the whole process.
Cool down before you enter a sauna. Take extra care if you have been exercising or engaging in any other activities that increase your body temperature. The University of Alabama Health System recommends drinking some water to replenish your fluids. This will help keep you from overheating in the sauna.
Steer clear of alcohol, heavy meals and drugs around the time you plan to enter a sauna. Alcohol, medications and too much food in your stomach may impair your body’s ability to cool itself off, which can lead you to overheat in a sauna, according to Harvard Health Publications. Drugs such as stimulants, tranquilizers and other prescription drugs can alter your body’s metabolism and cause health problems in the heat, says Health Services at Columbia.
Bring a friend with you or at least be sure that another person is in the sauna when you enter it, suggests the University of Alabama Health System. This way, you both have someone to look out for you in case you faint or have another health problem while you’re sitting in high temperatures.
Start using the sauna in short chunks of time. Get out of the sauna if you develop a headache or you start to feel nauseated, dizzy or chilled, even if you’ve only been in the sauna for a couple of minutes. You may be able to increase your tolerance over time and spend more minutes in the sauna with each visit, says the University of Alabama Health System. However, healthy adults shouldn’t spend longer than 15 minutes in the sauna at any given time, says Health Services at Columbia. If you’re over age 65, you may need to cut this time dramatically or avoid saunas altogether.
Cool down gradually. You risk placing stress on your heart if you jump into extremely cold water or if you expose your body to cold outdoor weather immediately after you are in a sauna, warns the University of Alabama Health System. Drink between two and four glasses of cool water when you leave the sauna in order to cool down and replenish your fluids, says Harvard Health Publications.
Talk to a doctor before you use a sauna if you have any health conditions. People with respiratory diseases or heart problems and those who have chronic ailments or regularly take certain medications may not be safe in a sauna, according to Health Services at Columbia and the University of Alabama Health System.
Pregnant women should limit their exposure to extreme temperatures or they increase the risk of birth defects, says the University of Alabama Health System.