Infrared Sauna and Steam Room Thoughts

Published: 22nd October 2010
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Some people assume that dry saunas and steam rooms are equal, but they are distinct. Actually, for decades, there's been an continuing sauna vs steam room argument between those advocating sauna use and those who anticipate steam rooms are more appropriate.

Prior to plowing into the sauna vs steam room comparisons, it is critical to ascertain a wet sauna from a steam room. In a wet sauna, water is ladled onto hot rocks, which raises the humidity a tad, but not close to the humidity levels that exist in a steam room. Even in a wet sauna, the respective humidity is around 20%, in contrast to 100% in a steam room.

Saunas and steam rooms are basically dissimilar types of hot baths, but a dry sauna has dry heat and a steam room has moist heat. Essentially, saunas have notably low levels of humidity, allowing them to be quite a bit hotter than steam rooms. You know how 90 degrees outside with decreased humidity is quite a bit comfortable than 90 degrees outside with increased humidity? Analogous principles apply in the sauna vs steam room example. Saunas contain dry heat, and the human body can tolerate high temperatures if the humidity is low enough. Steam rooms have moist heat, and since sweating is far less effective (taking into account that it can't evaporate easily) in a steam room, the temperature should be kept lower.

In a sauna, the temperature can reach 180 degrees Fahrenheit and remain safe because the heat is dry. In a steam room, the temperature is maintained at about 100 degrees Fahrenheit, since if it were much hotter it could blister the skin.

Infrared sauna and steam rooms are constructed differently due to the fact of their different heating methods and the different conditions inside steam rooms and infrared sauna. Steam showers use a generator to heat water and intersperse it throughout the air, creating 100% humidity. Dry saunas use stones placed atop a heater, which is generally electric or wood-burning (however, gas and propane powered far infrared sauna heaters exist too). When water is splashed onto the hot rocks, the steam quickly disperses.

Steam showers have to be fabricated in certain ways to cope with the raised moisture levels created by the steam. Mostly they are coated with ceramic tile, and they are usually made with sloped ceilings so that steam build-up won't "rain" onto the steam bathers.

So what is the main point in the infrared sauna vs steam room debate? Here are some major points.

1. Steam showers feel hotter, considering they're cooler, since sweat can't evaporate. You won't actually perspire more in a steam shower; it's just that when the sweat doesn't evaporate, you're more alert of how much you're sweating.

2. People with sinus troubles or asthma may prefer the moist heat of steam baths. Steam inhalation is calming to inflamed respiratory passages, and dry heat can make them feel more bothered.

3. However, if steam showers are not entirely and regularly cleaned, they could be reproducing grounds for bacteria such as MRSA (methicillin resistant staphylococcus aureus) and the fungus that results in athlete's foot.

4. Some people think that far infrared saunas over-dry the skin and can cause irritation and ruptured capillaries.

5. Sauna use can be greatly dehydrating, so it is important to drink water before and after using a far infrared sauna. The same is true to a decreased extent for steam rooms.

It is doubtful that the sauna vs steam room debate will have an apparent winner anytime soon. There are boons and drawbacks of both. If, for instance, you attend a health club that has both, you can make your verdict based on your exact health history and on considerations such as cleanliness and sanitation.


If you found this article helpful or informational please take a moment to also visit these pages, and give us your feedback where appropriate: Sauna vs Steam Room and Far Infrared Sauna Benefits

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