IR Sauna Safety – Precautions & Contraindications

IR Saunas operate with the same efficiency in your home as in a medical or clinical setting

Are infrared saunas safe?

A Rocky Mountain Sauna is a quality instrument of professional and home health therapy. However, you may put yourself at risk if you do not fully understand how to use the infrared sauna, or are unaware of proper health safety guidelines.

With a little common sense and by following a few precautionary guidelines, Infrared Sauna Therapy is a safe and pleasurable way to maintain and improve your overall health and wellbeing.

DO NOT attempt to self-treat any disease with an IR Sauna without direct supervision of a certified physician. If you have a disease, be certain to consult with your primary-care physician before use. The material presented is offered for reference purposes only. Creating a cure for or treating any disease is not implied and should not be inferred as such.

In all situations, proper hydration is a primary requirement for IR sauna use. Drinking plenty of fluids is recommended before, during and after infrared sauna use. Replacing the body’s electrolytes, calcium, magnesium, sodium and potassium is very important, since these minerals are depleted during sweating. Regular vitamin supplements are an inexpensive way to accomplish electrolyte replenishment. Sports drinks that replace electrolytes are also acceptable.

The light energy spectrum emitted by a far infrared saunas offers an astounding range of therapeutic benefits for a responsible health maintenance program. Actually, there are only a few absolute contraindications for safe infrared sauna use. A safe and beneficial therapy for the vast majority of people, worldwide, the following list of the precautions and recommendations are prudent for your productive Infrared Sauna (IR Sauna) experience.

HEAT SENSITIVITY

It is considered inadvisable to raise the core temperature too high in someone with adrenal suppression and systemic lupus or multiple sclerosis, by some authorities.

For patients with these health considerations, some physicians recommend shorter IR sauna sessions at lower temperatures with a friend nearby in case a physical weakening may occur. We have had good reports from our clients with lupus and multiple sclerosis. Mild radiant body heating produces a wonderful cardiovascular improvement, carrying increased amounts of healing oxygen throughout the body, even if clients do not sweat profusely.

Individuals with total Heat Insensitivity or who lack the ability to perspire or sweat or to emit body heat should probably refrain from IR sauna use. As always, check with your doctor first.

RECENT INJURY

If you have a sprain, bruising, laceration or surgery, the affected area(s) should not be heated for the first 48 hours after an injury OR until the swelling has reduced. Start with short sessions of 15-20 minutes at a lower temperature (115-120 degrees) and work your way up. Mild stretching exercises work wonders for rehabilitating injuries like ACL and Rotator Cuff surgery. Proper IR Sauna Therapy speeds healing of wounds and injuries dramatically.

CONTACT LENSES

Two special benefits make contact lenses ideal for the infrared sauna: they do not ‘steam up’ in humid conditions or as a result of temperature fluctuations. They always remain at body temperature.

Any mention of contact lens contraindication that I researched gave no specific reason why contact lenses could not be worn. I have told my clients for many years that contact lenses are safe to wear in your sauna and have never received any negative feedback.

Bottom Line: As always, when any health condition is in question, I ask that you check with your eye doctor and/or the manufacturer of the lenses!

PREGNANT OR LACTATING WOMEN

If you are pregnant, limit your sessions to 10 minutes with a maximum of four sessions per week. **** NOTE: Exposure to intense heat during the first trimester of pregnancy may slightly increase the risk of birth defects. Consult your physician, as opinions on use during pregnancy vary.

Breastfeeding: There is insufficient empirical evidence to establish whether or not toxins are released, during IR sauna use, that could enter into breast milk. It would be prudent to reduce or avoid intense sauna therapy during the breastfeeding period.

IMPLANTS

Metal pins, rods, artificial joints or any other surgical implants generally reflect infrared rays and thus are not heated by the infrared sauna; nevertheless, you should consult your surgeon prior to using an infrared thermal modality.

Silicone does absorb some infrared energy. Implanted silicone or silicone prostheses for nose or ear replacement may be warmed slightly by the infrared rays. Since silicone melts at over 200 degrees, it should not be adversely affected by the usage of an infrared thermal system and is considered safe in most circumstances.

Saline implants may warm slightly as the body core temperature elevates, but IR sauna use should be safe and without discomfort or problematic symptoms.

**** We always recommend that you check with your surgeon and/or the product manufacturer’s representative before use. ****

MENSTRUAL FLOW

Heating of the low back area of women during the menstrual period may temporarily increase their menstrual flow. Once a woman is aware that this may occur, she can choose to allow herself to possibly experience this short term effect without worry or to simply avoid use at that time of her cycle.  Many women do report relief of other common symptoms related to menstruation including relief of bloating, cramping and headaches.

PRESCRIPTION DRUGS

If you are using any prescription drugs, check with your physician for any possible change in the drug’s effect due to any interaction with infrared heat. Very rarely does heating the body alter the properties or effects of a prescribed medication. Cortisteroids may be a contraindicated substance. Some antihistamines contain ephedrine and may increase heart rate inordinately during sauna use.

BLEEDING DISORDERS

Hemophiliacs and anyone predisposed to hemorrhage should avoid usage or any type of heating that would induce vasodilatation or stimulated circulation, which can increase the tendency to bleed.

ELDERLY

According to Dr. J. Halperin, M.D., Mount Sinai Medical Center, New York, “Moderate sauna use is safe for most older people. Diabetics or anyone being treated for heart conditions, circulatory issues or prescription medication should check with their doctor.”

Age is not a contraindication for IR sauna use. We have clients in their 90’s who enjoy the benefits of regular sessions.

YOUNG CHILDREN

Young children have a high metabolic rate and are less adaptable to higher body core temperatures than adults, due to their limitations of circulatory adaptation and body temperature regulation (sweating).

Ages 6 – 12 should spend no more than 20 minutes in IR saunas, and should be accompanied by an adult. Start with lower temperatures and work up gradually as child demonstrates the ability to perspire freely.

Ages 6 and Under should avoid use unless prescribed by a doctor.

Teenagers may safely use IR saunas, taking particular care to hydrate liberally and not become overheated.

DIABETES

Start your IR sauna program slowly and monitor any unusual changes in blood sugar. Infrared sauna use does not increase the blood sugar level or the body’s consumption of glucose.

HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE

Using an IR sauna does not normally raise blood pressure. You may use a blood pressure monitor during your session to observe BP rates. Although the heart rate is increased during use, vasodilation of all the blood vessels in the body and increased blood circulation actually allows for a lowering of blood pressure in many users, both short and long term. Regular infrared sauna use is a highly effective, passive cardiovascular activity for folks with limited physical exercise capability.

ELIMINATION OF MEDICATIONS / HEALING REACTIONS

During IR sauna therapy, it is common for the body to eliminate residues of prescription and “over the counter” medications… even those ingested many years past. Such residues can include ingredients found in antibiotics, narcotics, sedatives, stimulants, chemotherapy, cold medicines, sleep and allergy aids, etc. Occasionally, the release of these substances can result in temporary effects similar to the action of the drug when first taken, i.e., novocaine expulsion may temporarily produce a slight numbness in the jaw from a previous dental injection.

Purging your system of antibiotics can sometimes alter digestive bacteria balance and constipation or diarrhea may be a symptom. In most instances, these effects pass quickly as residues are excreted.

“According to Dr. L. Wilson, M.D. and Homeopathic Practitioner, “Healing Reactions are temporary symptoms associated with eliminating toxic substances, healing chronic infections or due to other metabolic changes in the body. They are an important part of all deep healing.”

As some toxins are mobilized from storage sites throughout the body, they are transported by the blood to the liver, primarily. Toxins must be processed by the organs of elimination, including the liver, kidneys, colon, lungs and skin. The metabolic process of expelling toxins sometimes results in mild and short lived “flare ups” or experienced symptoms of a previous illness, virus or physical trauma.

Most healing reactions are mild and pass quickly. Symptoms may include diarrhea, constipation, aches, pains, muscle cramps, sinus discharges, odors, minor rashes, headaches, irritability and fatigue. Mood swings and emotional reactions may occur on rare occasions and are the result of changes in body chemistry and neurotransmitter levels.”

Please call us for suggestions and support in handling a healing reaction.

MEALS

Wait for an hour or two after a meal before engaging in infrared sauna therapy. Therapy right after a meal may interfere with proper digestion and cause mild stomach cramps.

ALCOHOL

Alcohol consumption during, or prior to, an IR sauna session, is prohibited! “Sweating out a hangover” is not advisable, but permissible, given that you limit your session to no more than 30 minutes and do not overheat! Drink lots of fluids prior, during and after your session.

STENTS AND PACEMAKERS

In many instances, clients with stents and pacemakers may use the our units safely. Check with your physician and/or the manufacturer of the particular product.

DANGER SIGNALS

Danger signals include a rapid increase of body temperature, a noticeable “racing” of the heartbeat, extreme redness of the skin and feeling light headed or extremely faint. If you notice any of these symptoms, end your session immediately. Occurrences of this nature are very rare.

EXERCISE AND SAUNA USE

Wait 20-30 minutes, following strenuous exercise, to use your infrared sauna. Allow your body to cool down completely before entering the unit. You are activating a different branch of your involuntary nervous system; The IR sauna is supplying your body heat passively, instead of actively, as in a physical workout.

Did you know: “The Internal Revenue Service may consider sauna therapy a deductible health expense when prescribed by a doctor.” [source: Sauna Therapy for Detoxification and Healing, Wilson, L., 2004]