Steam baths are a cultural tradition to some and a great way to end a day of exercise at the gym for others. Steam baths can relieve muscle tension and relax minds, but their medical benefits are not limitless--those who tell you steam baths free the body of all toxins or result in serious weight loss mislead you. Steam bathing is usually a healthy and pleasant experience, but health-conscious people should familiarize themselves with some aspects of steam bathing.
Temporary Reduction of Sperm Count
Very hot water and steam can reduce a man's sperm count and cause temporary infertility. The Mayo Clinic advises men trying to conceive a child to "avoid hot tubs and baths" and goes on to say that staying more than 30 minutes in very hot water can reduce a man's sperm count, noting, "Saunas and steam rooms may have similar effects."
Reduction in Blood Pressure
Steam baths can cause people who use them to sweat to the point of extreme dehydration. Steam bath users who already suffer from heart conditions or low blood pressure may make their situation worse by spending too much time in a steam bath and further reducing their blood pressure to unhealthy levels. Reduced blood pressure can reduce the flow of blood to the brain and cause weakness, light-headedness or even fainting. If you have a heart condition or blood pressure issue, you should consult your doctor before using a steam bath.
Steam bath users may suffer from false expectations when it comes to steam bathing. There are no hard indications that using a steam bath releases toxins from the body or results in weight loss. A University of Alabama at Birmingham medical website discussing the health merits and risks of saunas and steam baths points out that although a steam bather may lose a lot of fluid, once he hydrates, he will regain whatever weight he may have lost from sweating. The same article notes that sweating can, in some small way, clear pores and temporarily cleanse the skin, but this does not necessarily cause the body to release toxins.
Gyms and public health facilities are ideal places for germs to spread. Specifically, a steam bath, which is usually a dark and humid place, is an ideal breeding ground for certain bacteria and fungi. A Newsweek article cautions that the presence of people and humidity along with the absence of sunlight work well to create fertile breeding grounds for bacteria and fungi. Specifically, the article suggests that people who visit such places should "wear flip-flops or water shoes to avoid athlete's foot, a fungal condition."
- Photo Credit sauna image by Andrejs Pidjass from Fotolia.com