To be able to breathe is a very precious gift of life. Asthma is a disease that makes it hard for someone to relish that gift truly. Records show that about 25 million people have asthma in the U.S. Though there is no cure for asthma, you can treat it efficiently. So amongst many other methods of treatments, is sauna good for asthma?
The use of a sauna is an excellent and efficient means for treating asthma. Many health experts also recommend the application of a sauna to manage asthma symptoms effectively. People used traditional saunas to treat similar breathing problems caused by flu and the common cold. Their application dates back to a few thousand years.
Infrared sauna and asthma:
An infrared sauna, aka infrared therapy, is a modern take on the traditional sauna. It emits light wavelengths to produce heat on a person's body. As the skin absorbs the heat, the user begins to sweat excessively. It differs from the traditional type as it does not produce steam nor raises the room temperature very high. The average temperature range of the infrared sauna room is usually maintained between 120° F to 150° F.
There are two types of infrared saunas:
- Far-Infrared Sauna: This type uses light rays with low penetration ability, i.e., they cannot penetrate a person's skin.
- Near-Infrared Sauna: This type uses light rays, which have high penetration ability. They can penetrate a person's skin and several inches deeper. It is more efficient than a far infrared sauna as it makes the user sweat a lot more.
Infrared saunas focus more on the user's body rather than on the humidity of the room. They replicate similar reactions that happen when you exercise. Infrared saunas have lots of other health benefits as well.
Asthma is a disease that causes inflammation of the lungs and affects the lungs' airways. A person who has asthma may have the following symptoms:
- A wheezing or panting sound while breathing.
- Coughing when you stress your lungs.
- Chest tightness.
- Short breathes.
- Having trouble while talking.
This disease occurs when the airways' linings to your lungs swell up, and the surrounding muscles tighten. It results in a smaller passageway for air to circulate through the lungs. With additional production of mucus due to the condition, it further disturbs the passage for breathing. The severity of this sickness varies from person to person. Some may consider it as a minor irritation, while for some, it can be life-threatening.
How do infrared saunas help with asthma?
Infrared saunas are now generally used by people who have asthma as a form of therapy for their condition. The infrared heaters emit infrared light in the form of heat to the user's body. As a result, the skin absorbs the incoming heat transferred through all types, i.e., conduction, convection, and radiation.
Soon, the blood gets nearer to the surface of the skin. It makes the pores to open up and release sweat. As the infrared rays penetrate deeper, the bronchioles' muscles become warmer, making them more relaxed gradually. Thus, undoing the effects of asthma, i.e., tensed respiratory muscles, for a short period.
The application of infrared saunas helps in treating the condition of asthma by:
- Loosening the phlegm in the lungs, thus resulting in their secretion.
- Helping the respiratory muscles to relax and warm up.
- Opening up of airways, thus reducing respiration resistance.
- Reducing coughs by soothing the sore throat.
Hence, all the above points effectively contribute to finally reducing the inflammation and congestion. Also, a person who has asthma can be vulnerable to infections. The continual use of an infrared sauna can help build the user's internal defense system.
What does science say?
- Two researchers did a study in 2001 on the gains and risks of sauna bathing. They observed that it causes gradual improvement in the pulmonary functions of a person who has asthma. As a result, it may provide some relief to the patient.
- A 1989 study done on 12 male patients observed that sauna use helped improve their lung functions. However, in this case, they focused the research on traditional type saunas. If the patients' lung conditions are similar to yours, then infrared sauna may help improve your pulmonary functions too.
Quick tips on how to use a sauna for asthma:
Below are some tips you can follow while using the sauna for asthma:
- In the case of infrared saunas, set the temperature of the room to your preference. High temperatures may cause unprecedented health problems.
- Sit or rest in a comfortable position, which will ease your breathing.
- Try to inhale and exhale only through your nose.
- In case you experience any irritation or difficulty in breathing, walk out of the room.
- Try not to stay longer than 30 minutes in one sitting.
- Before entering the sauna, make sure you don't consume any food that may cause dehydration.
- Right after you come out of the sauna, rehydrate yourself well.
The use of a sauna can be useful for treating asthma and its related symptoms. However, there can be cases of incompatibility or blending of other health problems with asthma. Therefore, you need first to examine if you have other health issues that may not be compatible with a sauna. Moreover, there is still a need for research regarding the possible benefits and risks of saunas on an asthma patient.