Saunas have been used for thousands of years for reasons ranging from alternative health and ceremonial proceedings to relaxation purposes. As such, you can find saunas in personal homes, gyms, spas and healing centers across the world. An infrared sauna uses infrared heat in place of the steam or dry heat typically used. However, like traditional saunas, infrared products can cause potentially serious side effects when not used properly.
Infrared saunas cause your body to sweat, which can deplete your body's water supply. Since the sauna causes sweating to occur at an accelerated rate, dehydration can happen quickly if you're not careful, especially to children and the elderly, both of whom dehydrate much faster than healthy adults, suggests MayoClinic.com. To prevent dehydration, drink plenty of water before getting into the sauna as well as during the hours after exiting.
If left untreated, dehydration can quickly progress into something much more serious, such as heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Heat stroke occurs when the body is no longer able to cool itself down after being exposed to excessive heat over a period of time. Heat stroke can cause serious repercussions including death. As such, you should exit the infrared sauna immediately if you feel any of the beginning warning signs of heatstroke including nausea, headache, fainting, dizziness or rapid heart beat.
A infrared sauna can cause certain side effects in relation to the medications you are taking. Talk to your doctor before using the sauna if you are currently taking medications such as beta blockers, diuretics or barbiturates, which can affect your heart rate or interrupt your body's natural abilities to sweat.
If you had a recent injury to a joint due to exercise, sports or an accident, you should not use an infrared sauna until most of the swelling has gone down, or about 48 hours. Heat can aggravate the inflammation, affecting the speed in which the injury heals. Instead, follow the R.I.C.E. technique of resting the joint, placing ice instead of heat on it, using some sort of compression on the injury and elevating the affected area until the swelling has gone down.
The heat from an infrared sauna can cause potentially serious side effects for those battling infection or disease. If you have been diagnosed with certain diseases including heart disease, hypertension, hypotension, hemophilia, diabetes, cancer, Parkinson's or multiple sclerosis, your disease may affect your body's abilities to cool itself. Certain active infections, especially enclosed tissue infections, can also cause side effects to occur with infrared sauna use, states the Optimal Health Network. Talk to your doctor before using a sauna if you are experiencing any of the preceding conditions.
Chris Sherwood is a professional journalist who after years in the health administration field and writing health and wellness articles turned towards organic sustainable gardening and food education. He now owns and operates an organic-method small farm focusing his research and writing on both organic gardening methods and hydroponics.