I began researching the impacts of high heat on viruses earlier this year after my husband and I were both exposed to Covid-19.
We live in a northern climate so using a sauna on a regular basis is already incorporated into our daily routine, especially during the colder months.
I did end up experiencing mild symptoms after exposure, but I found using the sauna as an effective way to manage my symptoms.
In my research I discovered evidence for using heat to treat and prevent viral infections. In the initial phase of infection, heat applied to the upper airways can support the immune system’s first line of defense.
Heat applied to the whole body can further support the immune system’s second line of defence by mimicking fever and activating immune defenses and building physiological resilience.
Heat-based treatments also offer psychological benefits and enhance mental wellness by focusing attention on relaxation and sleep, inducing ‘forced-mindfulness’, and invoking the power of positive thinking and ‘remembered wellness’.
There are multiple lines of evidence to support the use of heat and humidity for the prevention and treatment of viral respiratory infections. Historical and emerging evidence suggests regular sauna bathing enhances cardiovascular, respiratory and immune function as well as improving mood and quality of life.
Finnish sauna bathing, which involves brief exposures to high environmental temperature (80°C-100°C) has been shown to reduce the risk of cardiac death, cardiovascular disease and vascular diseases such as high blood pressure and stroke, along with the risk of neurocognitive diseases, skin conditions and painful conditions such as rheumatic diseases and headache.
Epidemiological evidence further suggests that frequent sauna bathing is associated with a reduced risk of pneumonia and viral infection.