The Sauna Solution
There is a long trail of evidence to suggest heat can both prevent and treat viral respiratory infections. This includes evolutionary evidence from mammals which use fever as an important immune defense against viruses, historical evidence from cultures around the world which use hot springs, saunas, hamams, sweat lodges etc to enhance wellbeing (1) , epidemiological evidence from population studies showing that regular sauna bathing is associated with reduced risk of respiratory infections and pneumonia (2) and randomised controlled trial evidence showing that sauna bathing can reduce incidence of viral respiratory infections (3) and can reduce symptoms and the course of disease caused by respiratory viruses (4,5).
It is clear that humans can tolerate temperatures that cannot be tolerated by coronaviruses and that heat-stress has many non-specific immune enhancing effects. While further specific research is needed on COVID-19, previous evidence is overwhelmingly in support of using heat to combat viral infection. Here is a list of ways that saunas can help overcome infection with COVID-19 or other respiratory viruses. If you do not have access to a sauna, similar benefits may be obtained at home using a hot bath to induce heat stress and/or breathing hot air or steam.
WARNING! Heat is a powerful force (it can move a train) and like any powerful intervention it has the potential to either hurt or help you. Care needs to be taken to avoid burns or scalding near sources of heat and steam and it is important to ensure adequate hydration is maintained and safe physiological limits are not exceeded. Use your comfort level as a guide to safe exposure levels and avoid the use of alcohol or drugs that may impair your judgement. The best approaches alternate hot and cold exposure and at least as much time spent resting and coming to physiological balance as spent in extremes of temperature.
10 Ways Saunas Help Your Body Overcome COVID-19:
- Saunas raise upper airways temperature to levels that can deactivate viruses in the place where they first lodge
- Saunas help keep nasal passages open and keep mucous thin and mobile so cilia can clear it and prevent viral penetration
- Saunas create heat stress that mimics fever, speeds up metabolism and stimulates immune function whilst also inhibiting viral replication
- Saunas induce hyperventilation which blows off carbon dioxide and raises blood pH, which favour host defenses over viral replication
- Saunas increase the number and activity of immune cells and stimulate release of Heat Shock Proteins that protect immune cells from thermal stress
- Saunas enhance sleep and induce hormesis thereby increasing your ability to tolerate and recover from future heat or other physiological stresses
- Saunas flushes your skin with blood and sweat which eliminates toxic compounds and nourishes and cleans skin from the inside out
- Saunas exercise your heart, lungs and vascular system without significant production of metabolic waste products
- Saunas combined with cold immersion and adequate hydration flushes your internal organs with blood and helps mobilises and eliminates toxic compounds
- Saunas can deliver essential oils with anti-viral, decongestant and other properties to the upper respiratory tract
5 Ways Saunas Help Your Mind Overcome COVID-19:
- Saunas are fun and provide dedicated relaxation time
- Saunas focus attention on positive actions that are within your control
- Saunas provide a healthy space to bond with friends and family
- Saunas feel good and activate the placebo effect and ‘remembered wellness’
- Saunas force you to be mindful and just breathe
1) Hussain J, Cohen M. Clinical Effects of Regular Dry Sauna Bathing: A Systematic Review. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2018;2018:1857413.
2) Kunutsor SK, Laukkanen T, Laukkanen JA. Frequent sauna bathing may reduce the risk of pneumonia in middle-aged Caucasian men: The KIHD prospective cohort study. Respir Med. 2017;132:161-3.
3) Ernst E, Pecho E, Wirz P, Saradeth T. Regular Sauna Bathing and the Incidence of Common Colds. Annals of Medicine. 1990;22(4):225-7.
4) Tyrrell D, Barrow I, Arthur J. Local hyperthermia benefits natural and experimental common colds. British Medical Journal. 1989;298(6683):1280-3.
5) Tyrrell DA. Hot news on the common cold. Annu Rev Microbiol. 1988;42:35-47.
Further references available on request.
Dr Marc is a medical doctor, university professor and wellness trailblazer who has spent more than 30 years practicing and researching holistic health. He has published more than 100 peer-reviewed scientific papers and many books and technical texts on wellness and natural medicine and is author of the illustrated children’s book “The Beautiful Mare and the Boy Who Gave Thanks“. He is the Founder of the Extreme Wellness Institute and Co-Founder of the Bathe the World Foundation. You can find him at www.drmarc.co , www.extremewellness.co and at www.facebook.com/drmarc.co www.instagram.com/extreme_wellness