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Spas and athletic clubs throughout the world offer guests the chance to step into a steam room. This self-enclosed room provides a heated and moisture-rich environment intended for relaxing and improving a variety of health conditions such as sore muscles and sinus pressure. With an average temperature of over 110 degrees, steam rooms come with some potential disadvantages.
The temperature in a steam room can double your heart rate within 10 minutes, which may have vascular implications for your body. Increased blood flow to the skin reduces the amount sent to your organs, a possible issue if you have coronary artery disease. The increased heart rate also results in caloric burn causing potential weight loss. This is a disadvantage if you are an athlete who needs to maintain a certain weight for optimal athletic performance. If you have high blood pressure, a steam room may increase it further. Consult your doctor or a nurse familiar with your health issues before use.
A warm and wet environment is a breeding ground for bacteria and viruses. A steam room acts as an expectorant and may cause your nose to run. If a previous user had a cold or cough, his germs may be growing in the steam room. According to Mayo Clinic.com, life-threating infections like MRSA can thrive in these environments. Protect yourself by washing hands and feet upon entering and leaving. In addition, use a towel or other protective barrier between your skin and the seats inside.
While a steam room may relieve the symptoms of some chronic illnesses such as fibromyalgia, certain diseases may be exaggerated with its use. Asthma may worsen when the steam loosens up phlegm and material in your lungs and bronchial tubes. If you have a chronic skin condition, a steam room may produce a thermal burn, leading to a host of potential issues such as infection and pain. Avoid a steam room if you have any chronic or acute illness until you speak with your physician.
Because a steam room causes extensive sweating and an increase in body temperature, you can dehydrate easily. Never use a steam room for more than 15 to 20 minutes and drink at least two glasses of water after use to replace fluid lost during sweating. Be aware of dehydration symptoms such as dry mouth, fatigue or dizziness. If you feel dehydrated or overheated in the steam room, remove yourself immediately. Cool off with a shower, but do so gradually, as any extreme temperature change stresses the body even further.