Sauna Q&A / Jan Seepter

Q: What's the relationship between sauna heat and fighting viruses?

02 Oct 2023

Scientific research about how an 80-degree sauna can affect viruses within the human body is lacking at the moment.  However, there are studies confirming that increased temperatures (from 55°C) considerably accelerate the deactivation process of viruses. The linked article observed the virus of SARS-CoV or COVID-19.  As a result of the study, thermal disinfection at 60°C for 30 minutes, or 65°C for 15 minutes, or 80°C for 1 minute, was recommended for temperatures and exposure times to kill the virus.

However, if the virus has reached the mucous membrane of the nose, throat, or eye, then the temperatures on these surfaces will not rise as high as needed to start the same processes. This means that we can use heat to disinfect different rooms and surfaces, but we cannot use heat to kill the virus in our bodies. In order to protect ourselves from viruses, we need to concentrate on different protective systems of the body, although virus free environments always have an advantage when staying safe and healthy.

So, going to the sauna is mainly a preventative measure – working towards a resilient immune system. This helps to prevent you from getting infected with the virus and even if illness occurs, it is easier to fight off the disease or recover.

Altering between hot and cold temperatures boosts and speeds up your metabolism, while sweating flushes toxins out of your body. The heat activates the immune system. At the same time, it is important to understand that in case of a fever (more than 37,5 °C) the body is taking its time to fight the disease / virus, and going to the sauna puts extra effort on the body and this might rather have a negative effect and weaken the system. 

In addition to the training of the body's protective system, hot sauna and altering between hot and cold temperatures also decrease levels of stress thanks to the different hormones (immunoreactive beta-endorphin, etc) that are released during the process. As we know, less stress also means better health and stronger immune system.

This means that if you care about yourself and your close ones and act accordingly, following the hygiene, regularly using sauna, eating healthily, and ensuring a healthy balance between rest and outdoor activities, you have already done a lot to fight off viruses that are inevitable during this time of the year.

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