Everyone is familiar with the common cold, but when you’re in the throes of one, you could be forgiven for thinking there’s nothing common about it. Symptoms might include a runny or stuffy nose, cough, sore throat, body ache, headache, congestion, sneezing, slight fever, and just feeling like crap. And one of the worst parts about having a cold is that it seems to confer no immunity, not even for a single season. This is because a cold results from a viral infection, and there are over 200 viruses capable of giving you one. In other words, when you’re finished with one, you have more than 199 to go. That is why nobody has ever created a cold vaccine, and it’s why colds are so difficult to treat. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), adults average 2-3 colds per year and children average even more.
Once you’ve got a cold, all you can do is make yourself more comfortable while you struggle with it. In the words of the CDC, “There is no cure for a cold. To feel better, you should get lots of rest and drink plenty of fluids. Over-the-counter medicines may help ease symptoms but will not make your cold go away any faster.”
The best way to deal with a cold, then, is to avoid it. To that end, the CDC advises you to take three steps: 1) wash your hands often with soap and water, 2) avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands, and 3) stay away from sick people. These are sound strategies, but I would suggest that you can also add sauna into the mix. A 1990 report in Annals of Medicine found that regular sauna use substantially reduced the risk of colds in a clinical study of 50 patients (25 sauna users and 25 controls).
Why would using a sauna regularly cut down on colds? I think it’s because a sauna, particularly an infrared sauna, can strengthen your immune system. In a blog post on using infrared sauna to fight cancer, I described the theory behind it: “By flushing out the toxins, you preserve your immune system. How do you flush out the toxins? By sweating. Sweat is not pure water, and although it might taste salty, it is not simply salt water. In addition to water and sodium, sweat contains trace amounts of urea and lactic acid, as well as minerals and metals, such as potassium, calcium, magnesium, copper, iron, chromium, nickel, and lead.”
So if you want to reduce the number of colds you get, try regular sauna sessions to strengthen your immune system.
If you already have a cold, there is some evidence that infrared sauna can help relieve the symptoms. It can relax you, and the dry heat will likely dry up some of your congestion, at least momentarily. I have run across some sources on the web that say the heat of a sauna can kill or inactivate a cold virus. I am frankly dubious about this claim. Viruses are usually inactivated at temperatures of 167 degrees or higher. The infrared sauna operates in a range of 100 to 150 degrees. Your body’s thermoregulation will keep your core temperature at around 99 degrees. On the other hand, the temperature is higher than most viruses can easily tolerate, and there’s some satisfaction in making the virus as uncomfortable as it has made you :).
Book an infrared sauna session today.
Image: “036 – Cutest. Virus. Ever.” by Hillary, who says these represent the common cold virus, “magnified over 1,000,000 times, given beady little eyes and rendered in plush.” Creative Commons license.