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Boosting your immune system with infrared sauna to counter new coronavirus

How infrared sauna can help against novel coronavirus by boosting your immune system

Your whole body benefits from sauna use.

Sauna could help boost your immune system in the age of coronavirus.

Infrared sauna is not considered a treatment for viral infections but as a precautionary measure to boost your resilience towards all kinds of infections, bacterial, fungal and viral.

In order to prevent a medical emergency, however it of course recommended to avoid public places and to enforce strict social distancing until the threat of the Covid-19 is over.

Best course of action when it comes to pandemics is to avoid them at all costs.

Avoiding people whilst enjoying a relaxing session away from the news in the calming wood interior of the sauna is a great way to spend time.

Heat treatment of infrared saunas can be shared by a family, as a way to bond in addition to being a healthy endeavour.

Sauna such as infrared is a long-term investment into one's health.

Infrared sauna may initially sound like a skin treatment therapy but the benefits of using a sauna go far deeper than skin-deep. Infrared light therapy penetrated up to two inches into your skin, even to your lungs and brings a whole host of benefits. Besides the improvement to cardiovascular health which is closely linked to respiratory system, infrared light therapy makes us feel good and look good.

Respiratory system

Respiratory system care is a serious business. This is because our lungs supply all of our body with energy in form of oxygen. You may already know that the coronavirus primarily targets those with weaker lungs, so it is a great time to start looking after your health. The way your lungs work reflects on how you feel. Infrared sauna use offers a range of benefits, from helping you to look younger to more complex tasks of tackling skin conditions. Regular infrared sauna use is even associated with improved athletic performance.

Lungs and respiratory conditions, how sauna looks after our breathing

We need our lungs to survive. We need them healthy as long as possible to guard us against infections and foreign organisms. They also help us to maintain a good cardiovascular system. Well oiled lungs also protect us from dust, from extreme hostile conditions. We cough when the lung attempt to expel excess fluid or alien materials such as pollen. We know that exercise and living in a green environment helps to maintain lung function but some people still struggle giving up smoking. Infrared sauna is not associated with treatment of viruses directly however sauna use is beneficial to overall health and therefore could be used as a preventative measure against serious conditions.

Overall health, physical and mental well-being

Sauna use is not only used to boost the immune system but it has a whole range of therapeutic benefits. You could even prevent skin conditions such as acne. Sauna is linked to benefits for the cardiovascular system, to weight loss and to the relief of stress. Sauna is widely used to relax and to bond, when used in company. Improvements in mental health has been shown by psychology professionals as a result of sauna use. On top of countering stress and anxiety, there are benefits which could could go as far as helping against depression and preventing cognitive decline. 

Heat stress

When you get into our infrared saunas the body is treated by our technologically advanced heaters. Infrared light therapy works because it penetrates up to two inches into the body, so it has an impact on skin, joints, muscles and tendons. It also reaches parts of the lungs. In response to heat we experience vasodilation, muscle relaxation, pain relief and a feel-good factor. The feel-good factor is a result of endorphins release, which is the happiness hormone, it is not surprising that the entire body relaxes. Regular infrared sauna experiences may have a stacking effect - meaning that buying an infrared sauna as a long-term solution is advisable. People who use sauna also commonly report better productivity and better quality sleep. Research has shown that heat treatment reduces all-case mortality rate.

Novel coronavirus - covid-19, what we know so far

At the end of 2019 a new coronavirus appeared in China, whilst it’s origin is being disputed, the most accepted theory is that the Covid-19 made a jump from pangolins, cute scaly mammals to humans at a wild animals market.

Pangolin, possible the original carrier of coronavirus covid-19

Novel coronavirus is considered to be much deadlier than the regular seasonal flu and more contagious than another virus originating in China, SARS(1).

Whilst it is best to leave medical advice to medical professionals, there is plenty of information that we can dissect from current research in order to protect ourselves.

We should be looking for ways to boost our own immune system by leading a healthy lifestyle. Good diet, plentiful exercise, restful sleep all contribute to your immune system in the long run. In addition, boosting your immunity is possible in the long term through infrared sauna heat treatment.

Using a sauna is like a drill for most of the body systems. Better functioning cardiovascular and respiratory systems increases the resilience of the immune system.

A solid, well looked after immune system is better prepared to handle real threats such as viruses, i.e the novel coronavirus also known as Covid-19.

How does Covid-19 affect your body?

Novel coronavirus or Covid-19, also known as SARS-CoV-2 (as it comes from the same family of viruses as SARS) is a respiratory illness that damages the respiratory system (i.e lungs). It is dangerous, especially for those with a weakened immune system, whether through age or corresponding conditions.

The leading cause of death from coronavirus is pneumonia. Pneumonia is inflammation of the lungs. Alveoli, little sacks tissue that connect your lungs to your bloodstream, become filled with pus. Alveoli extract oxygen from the air and fill the red blood cells that carry oxygen to the rest of your body. Heavily inflamed alveoli are unable to fulfil their function causing a series of symptoms.


Pulmanary fibrosis, pneumonia from covid-19, alveoli in the lungs

What are the coronavirus symptoms?

Coronavirus symptoms include fever (high temperature), dry cough, shortness of breath and other symptoms of a typical flu.

So far the research shows that 80% of the persons infected with novel coronavirus experience mild-to-none symptoms. That’s right, a large percentage of those infected with coronavirus are asymptomatic. The other 15% experience severe symptoms and a further 5% experience critical symptoms which may be incompatible with life.

What is the coronavirus, covid-19 incubation period?

It may take up to 14 days for the symptoms to appear. This is why a 14 day quarantine is recommended. Because of this long incubation period for the virus to make it's presence known in the host body, there is a massive rate of infection.

Coronavirus victims chart, deadly covid-19, how to boost immune system with sauna treatment

In order to minimize the impact of a virus such as coronavirus on your health, you need to boost your immune system. Your immune system will fight off the infection internally. The better prepared your immune system is the higher your chances of you staying out of danger.

There is currently no vaccine, although some drugs are being tested against this infection.

How deadly is the novel coronavirus - Case fatality rate (CFR) of Covid-19

It is too early to tell what is the case fatality rate because some people infected by the virus show very mild or no symptoms at all. Additionally, treatments vary and preparedness to deal with the novel coronavirus of countries varies. It is suggested that the case fatality rate (CFR) is anywhere between 0.7% and 15%. The World Health Organization gives the CFR of 3.4% as of early March 2020.

Case fatality rate, cfr, coronavirus or covid-19

How does the new coronavirus compare against the regular seasonal flu?

By comparison, seasonal flu has CFR of about 0.1%, i.e. 1 fatality per 1000 infected, so Covid-19 is, by WHO’s estimates, 34 times deadlier than the seasonal flu, which makes it significantly more dangerous.

How does the novel coronavirus spread?

The virus mostly spreads through water droplets in the air. Coughing or exhaling leads to air droplets being released and then others can inhale the said droplets. Surfaces such as handrails, cups, skin and so on can also be contaminated water droplets containing the virus so avoid sharing cups and wash hands regularly, for at least 20 seconds with soap.

Avoid touching your face, eyes, mouth and if possible, wear a medical mask.

The best course of action, in order to avoid falling victim to the novel coronavirus is to avoid crowded spaces such as cruise ships and persons who may be infected.

Coronavirus spread via water droplets

Are masks efficient in stopping the spreading of the virus?

If coughing or sneezing, do so into a tissue. Catch it, bin it, kill it. Masks help for three reasons:

  • Masks act as a barrier for exhaling the moist air that contains water droplets that contain viruses, mucus and other body waste material.
  • Masks prevent some of the water droplets from being inhaled
  • Masks prevent you from touching your face

One the other hand, masks do get wet and they lose their efficacy if worn for too long, in fact they become wet and then they become counter-efficient, if not a hazard.

How contagious (infectious) is the coronavirus is the novel coronavirus - how fast does Covid-19 spread

Having spread to every single continent besides Antarctica, it has shown to be a threat to people’s health and livelihoods, as businesses struggle and demand for services falls.

Physicians across the globe are looking for a vaccine and until they find it, it is recommended to look into the ways of protecting yourself against the threat of coronavirus.

One sure way to minimize the threat of infection is to avoid contact with others, potential carriers. If contact with others is unavoidable then restraining from touching face, including eyes and mouth after being in physical proximity to others is recommended.

The current rate of spread of coronavirus varies depending on the public awareness and action of the authorities

Treatment, containment and prevention of coronavirus

Treatment advice should be left to medical professionals, containment such as quarantine should be left to the authorities so seek advice and guidance from relevant institutions of your country.

There are a few steps you can personally take to improve your chances against the novel coronavirus.

As of early march 2020, there is currently no vaccine so the best course of action is to prevent coronavirus from spreading through social distancing.

Coronavirus spread

As mentioned above the best is not to endanger yourself by avoiding unnecessary contact with others.

Who are most at risk from coronavirus and how to protect yourself?

Coronavirus poses a greater threat to the following groups of people (2):

  • The elderly
  • Those with a weakened immune system (i.e. those following a chemotherapy or radiotherapy cancer treatment, those who have had an organ transplant)
  • Those with a metabolic syndrome (i.e. diabetes and obese/overweight persons)
  • Those with problematic lungs (i.e. those who suffer from cystic fibrosis or asthma)
  • Those with other serious conditions (i.e. leukemia)
  • Smokers and those with underdeveloped lungs (i.e. those who lead a sedentary lifestyle)

Building resilience against viruses such as Covid-19

It is reasonable to suggest that there are a few ways to become more resilient towards this virus through:

  • Nutritious diet
  • Maintaining a well-functioning immune system
  • Looking after your lungs
  • Absence of vitamin deficiencies (in particular vitamin D and B)
  • Regular exercise

The most important defence in terms of resilience towards viruses is the immune system. As we age, we lose some ability to produce antibodies and white cells, t-cells in particular which handle foreign invading organisms such as viruses.

It would be irresponsible to claim outright that infrared saunas protect against viruses such as the Covid-19. However, there are several reasons backed by scientific evidence why infrared light treatment such as what you get in infrared saunas could help to protect you in the long run.

Leaving aside nutritious diet and vitamin deficiencies, unless you dine in your infrared sauna (maybe we should include a dining table with our sets) everything else, including immune system, lung capacity, oxygen saturation, can be improved over time through sauna use.

Ways to become more resilient to the new coronavirus through sauna use by improving your immune system

Saunas and infrared treatments offer a range of health benefits. Physical health and mental health can be improved with regular sauna sessions. Furthermore, an infrared sauna session is relaxing and enjoyable, it can be used in company or in solitude. However, infrared saunas have become more popular mostly due to the way they offer health benefits at minimum effort.

Here are some ways in which an infrared sauna boosts the immune system and health in general.

Regular exercise (or sauna sessions)

Regular infrared sauna sessions help protect against viruses through improving cardiovascular health, which leads to a better functioning body(4).

This is kind of a cheat, but it is actually very smart. Especially if your city is in a lockdown because of coronavirus or if you are voluntarily avoiding crowded spaces where people exhale a lot such as gyms- a personal infrared sauna may be right up your alley.

Sauna treatment, which is similar to exercise in the way it affects the body - makes you healthier. Exposure to hot air or in the case of infrared sauna, infrared light that heats up the body. Heat penetrates into the skin and this triggers certain thermoregulation mechanisms that are similar to that of exercise in the way it influences the body.

These mechanisms exercise the cardiovascular system and respiratory system without the muscle strain that you get from physical activity.

Sauna is a relaxing activity, which passively improves the heart function and it is recommended to those who are unable to exercise otherwise, for example the elderly and the overweight persons.

Maintaining a healthier body weight and metabolic function

Regular infrared sauna sessions help protect against viruses by improving overall physical resilience and by helping in to lose weight.

Nutritious diet is obviously beneficial to the immune system. Well oiled, well supplied cells are able to make your whole body function better. Those suffering from metabolic conditions, most famous of all diabetes, are prone to getting ill. There may be other underlying conditions that make establishing a causality difficult. What we know is that those overweight and those suffering from metabolic disorders such as diabetes are more vulnerable to viruses, including the new coronavirus, the Covid-19.

Exercise and exercise-like activity such as taking a sauna session, whether it is an infrared or a traditional sauna helps to fight obesity. By expending more energy and energizing the cardiovascular and respiratory system it leads to weight loss. This is better combined with a balanced restricted diet. It is further improved by actually exercising. Combining sauna and exercise helps the person improve recovery time and to improve stamina. Which, arguably is the definition of resilience. However, resilience to injury is not the same as resilience to viruses.

Still, sauna sessions do increase white blood cell count and these are the cells that tackle foreign organisms such as viruses(5). Don’t overdo it though, these same white cells are needed to repair your body.

Well functioning lungs and a healthy respiratory system

Infrared saunas helps to exercise your lungs by utilizing thermoregulatory mechanisms

Healthy respiratory system is the pillar of your resistance to respiratory viruses such as novel coronavirus. The air you breathe contains oxygen, which is pushed into your bloodstream to replace carbon dioxide, the waste product. The better your respiratory system is, the more efficient are your lungs. Fighting off infections, including coughing them out is easier when lungs work well.

Saunas of all kinds help your cardiovascular system which is heavily intertwined with the respiratory system to maximise oxygenation of blood. Oxygenation is the supply of energy required by all of your cells. This helps you to stay healthier, happier, live longer and so on (5).

Saunas, such as the infrared, induce effects similar to that of exercise where your body becomes more and more efficient at extracting oxygen from the air. Moreover, sweating from the heat helps to get rid of other waste products like salt and urea, maximizing the efficacy of nutrient delivery to cells in your body, including the lung cells.

Minimizing stress through thermotherapy and heat treatment

Stress is a killer. Using a sauna is a deeply relaxing activity that ticks all the boxes of stress relief.

Heat treatment triggers certain body mechanisms that make use of the cardiovascular and respiratory system. The combined effect of which is oxygenation of blood and by definition, it makes us relatively high. Using a sauna, whether it is an infrared or a traditional dry sauna makes us happy as does exercise. In fact, exercise and sauna use are very similar biologically speaking. Both release heat shock proteins that help the body in a number of ways such as reducing levels of stress. Curiously, the effect stacks and has a lasting effect. More regular sauna use makes us happier. Furthermore, sauna use could be recommended as a behavioural treatment against depression(6).

Since our immune system is vulnerable to internal threats, positive thinking, like the placebo effect is also beneficial. By staying positive, your body can concentrate on real dangers such as viruses, instead of focusing on the “in-your-mind” ones.

Infrared sauna could boost your immune system by stimulating general positivity immediately after using the sauna and even days later.

Better sleep as essential for a well functioning immune system

If you are struggling to recover by not getting enough sleep, you’re damaging your body, you’re compromising your immune system. A compromised immune system is vulnerable.

Sleep and rest is often overlooked by the majority of the population, however sleep is entirely and ultimately is one of the key factors in any kind of recovery. Every organism on the planet sleeps and whilst it’s exact function is disputed, a lack of sleep reflects poorly on the organisms’ ability to handle the simplest of threats.A well rested individual is better prepared to handle any kind of stress.

Coronavirus is a massive threat and therefore, proper sleep and restful nights are essential in order for the immune system to be prepared. Sleep and good rest is recommended, even insisted upon by physicians for almost all conditions, illnesses and maladies. For many conditions sleep and rest are the primary healing factors.

A trip to the sauna massively helps your sleep. Restoring circadian clocks or fighting insomnia, sauna has been shown to improve the quality of sleep and quantity of sleep (6). Due to the thermoregulatory processes of the organism, a sauna makes it easier to fall asleep. Just don’t forget to keep yourself hydrated.

Raising body temperature and surface temperature in the infrared sauna

A 2011 article about SARS virus, which is in the same family of viruses as the Covid-19 outlined that the virus survives much worse in the heat (8).

In that study, the dried virus on smooth surfaces retained its viability for over 5 days at temperatures of 22–25°C (71-77 °F)and relative humidity of 40–50%, that is, typical air-conditioned environments. However, virus viability was rapidly lost (>3 log10) at higher temperatures and higher relative humidity (e.g., 38°C (100.4 °F), and relative humidity of >95%).

Much like other viruses, they do not do well in the heat. So when it comes to surfaces and air, infrared light in saunas, as with other saunas where temperatures reach up to incredible near-boiling heights seems to kill the virus.

Viruses die at the temperature of about 60°C (140 °F) according to WHO (8). WHO also insists that methods that involve change in temperature are not reliable in killing infection. However, increase of the overall body temperature does increase the temperature of the lungs which aids the body to combat foreign organisms, fever is a natural response.

However the body initiates a whole set of procedures that involve heating the body, so raising the temperature alone is not enough.

Overall, raising body temperature in a sauna such as an infrared is advisable as a long-term regular practice to build immunity, but not as a treatment.

Lung capacity and respiratory performance of athletes with regular sauna use

However, when it comes to lungs there is not much that you can do. Regular sauna sessions have been shown to help increase performance in athletes, such as joggers. So there is evidence for improved lung function for athletes who also enjoy sauna.

A study from 2008 on lung conditions found that regular sauna use decreased pulmonary artery pressures during exercise (p = 0.028); increased exercise times after sauna exposures (360 s ± 107 s to 392 s ± 97 s, p = 0.032); and improved oxygen saturation during exercise (p = 0.022) compared to those who exercised but did not get heat treatment.

This means that lungs worked better, or had become more efficient if combined with sports. Which is recommended if you are worried about viruses that affect the respiratory system such as the new coronavirus.

How to get the maximum boost of your immune system to fight off infections

Your body is a complex mechanism that needs a lot of love. Whether it is sleep, nutritious diet or exercise. All of these are better used with a sauna, such as an infrared one.

For example, in order to get the most out of nutritious food it helps to use the sauna as it helps to flush waste products and to redistribute nutrients around the body. Much like exercise. This can only benefit the immune system.

The immune system is further strengthened by combining exercise and infrared sauna, like many athletes do. Combining regular exercise and sauna use improves significantly the amount of white blood cells, those cells that fight off infections, lymphocytes and monocytes.

Your immune system is looking after you, so look after your immune system by implementing an infrared sauna into your life. In addition to feeling healthier, happier and better rested you gain an additional benefit of being more resilient to viruses such as the covid-19.

References

Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) CDC
https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prepare/transmission.html

Coronavirus (COVID-19). NHS
https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/

Effect of a Single Finnish Sauna Session on White Blood Cell Profile and Cortisol Levels in Athletes and Non-Athletes. Journal of Human Kinetics
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3916915/

Sauna may be as good for the heart as exercise. WebMD.
https://www.webmd.com/heart/news/20180116/sauna-may-be-as-good-as-exercise-for-the-heart#1

5 . Hussain J, Cohen M. Clinical Effects of Regular Dry Sauna Bathing: A Systematic Review. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2018;2018:1857413. Published 2018 Apr 24. doi:10.1155/2018/1857413
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5941775/

6. Janssen CW, Lowry CA, Mehl MR, et al. Whole-Body Hyperthermia for the Treatment of Major Depressive Disorder: A Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA Psychiatry. 2016;73(8):789–795.
https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapsychiatry/fullarticle/2521478

7. The Effects of Temperature and Relative Humidity on the Viability of the SARS Coronavirus (2011) Advances in Virology.
K. H. Chan ,1 J. S. Malik Peiris,1 S. Y. Lam,1 L. L. M. Poon,1 K. Y. Yuen,1 and W. H. Seto1

8. Water and sanitation. WHO publishing.
https://www.who.int/water_sanitation_health/dwq/Boiling_water_01_15.pdf

9. Umehara M., Yamaguchi A., Itakura S., et al. Repeated Waon therapy improves pulmonary hypertension during exercise in patients with severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Journal of Cardiology. 2008;51(2):106–113. doi: 10.1016/j.jjcc.2008.01.004.