Can Sauna Kill Coronavirus? What We Know About Sauna and Coronavirus

"If booze, tar, and sauna won't help, the illness is fatal"

First Things First

We get it – there are no sauna coronavirus studies.  There’s no research to show if sauna can kill coronavirus.  There’s A LOT we don’t know yet about Covid-19.  

No one should talk about sauna as a ‘Coronavirus Cure’.  In fact, there’s no reason to think sauna will help at all after a person becomes infected (we’ll explain later).  If you already have coronavirus – a sauna could do more harm than good due to dehydration, and public saunas are NOT a good place to be right now (you launched at the WORST POSSIBLE TIME, SaunaShare.com!).

However!  While sauna and coronavirus claims seem like a stretch, there’s another way to look at the question, “can sauna kill coronavirus?”

What’s Cooking?  Viruses.

While it’s controversial to even discuss the temperature required to kill coronavirus in a sauna – apparently the same caution does not apply to cooking food.

Thanks to some extrapolation, we know that a typical sauna temperature is hot enough to kill coronavirus.  Crazy talk, right?  Well, here’s what experts say about temperature and coronavirus Covid-19.

To actively kill the virus you need temperatures of around 60° C [140° F]

Professor Sally Bloomfield, at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine Tweet

[coronavirus] is very sensitive to cooking.  Heat is going to kill it very easily

Francisco Diez-Gonzalez, director of the Center for Food Safety at the University of Georgia Tweet

Thorough cooking will kill the virus

Food Safety Authority of Ireland Tweet

Finnish Dry sauna temperatures (and a few infrared saunas, and steam baths) are much hotter than these recommended cooking temperatures to kill coronavirus!  

So literally, the answer is yes.  Sauna temperatures are hot enough to kill coronavirus.  But in practice, it depends on where the coronavirus is.

If a virus is on your skin, you stand a pretty good chance of killing it in an authentic Finnish sauna.  Good saunas can reach 100° C (212° F) – WAY hotter than the recommended cooking temperature to kill Coronavirus.  

Again, it’s not controversial to say cooking to these temperatures will kill the coronavirus. But it’s a lot more nuanced with how the heat hits our bodies.

The only way to know how hot your skin is in the sauna is with an infrared thermometer like these.*

*also handy for checking visitors for fevers.

Not a Cure

But we have to be very careful here.  Sauna may reach temperatures capable of killing coronavirus, but so does your hairdryer.  That does not make it an effective treatment.

1. If Already Infected, Sauna Will NOT Kill Coronavirus

Steam Baths, Infrared Saunas, and Dry Saunas Will NOT kill a Coronavirus that has reached an infected persons lungs. 

When you breathe in air, it is mixed with air that is already in your system to protect your body from extremely cold or hot air.  Because of a very efficient thermal regulation system, the temperature in your lungs will stay around 37c (normal body temperature) no matter how long you stay in the sauna.

So if infected, it’s probably too late to kill coronavirus in the sauna.  Once the virus reaches the lungs it is safe from even the most extreme Finnish Sauna.

When Joe Rogan asked infectious disease expert Michael Osterholm if sauna was a cure for coronavirus, he was very clear that the answer is no, a sauna is not a cure for Covid-19.  The interview is extremely useful with some of the best information available.  Check it out here.

2. Saunas and Gyms Can Spread Coronavirus

Visiting a public sauna or gym during a global pandemic is risky, but it’s a particularly bad idea if you are sick, have been in contact with someone who is sick, or have recently traveled.

Most gyms and public saunas are closing and moving online in hard hit areas.

Additionally, even if a sauna reaches boiling temperatures there will be places in the sauna that stay cool enough for viruses to survive.  Under the benches, the floor, the farthest corner from the heater, or an exterior wall can all stay surprisingly cool in a hot sauna.

The folks in charge may not even clean it because they think the sauna temperatures are hot enough to kill everything.  

3. You May Be Too Dehydrated to Sauna

Staying hydrated during and after a sauna session is always a challenge.  If you’re already sick, then you might want to wait to sauna, or at least cut down the session duration. 

Quarantine, Sauna, and Coronavirus

This is going to be not a storm, but a winter.

Minnesota Governor Tim Walz Tweet

 

The Finnish people know how to handle both literal and figurative winters.  After ‘SAUNA,’ the second most popular Finnish word in English is ‘SISU’the concept of stoic determination, tenacity of purpose, grit, bravery, resilience, and hardiness.

Both Sauna and Sisu are proven ways to weather a storm, and we’re going to need it.

We are living through a major reset in society, which will be a formative time in the world.  It can be a time to reflect, a time to look at our place in the world, meditate, and sauna if we’re lucky enough. 

Many of us are wondering if it’s still safe to sauna during the coronavirus pandemic.  As long as you are using the sauna with “your people” at a private sauna – it’s a great way spend the quarantine.

In fact, there’s reason to believe sauna can help prevent coronavirus, sauna is extremely good for you, and may play a role in preventing and killing Coronavirus.  After all, regular sauna use is associated with a decrease in all cause mortality, a decrease in pneumonia risk, and has been shown to cut the incidence of the common cold in half.

 

Sauna Benefits in the Time of Corona

Now that we don’t have unrealistic expectations for sauna to cure Covid-19, we think it’s quite possible that home saunas will play a role in coronavirus prevention and recovery.  

A sauna may directly kill coronavirus on skin, but more importantly, the same physiological factors that decrease all-cause mortality (did you know people who sauna frequently actually live longer?) may prepare your body to fight coronaviruses.

There’s a lot going on when you sauna, with dozens of real, proven health benefits that sound too good to be true.  Our database is here, but we also recommend Dr. Rhonda Patrick’s deep dive on sauna research here.

As Dr. Rhonda Patrick explains, the health benefits of sauna are studied in Finnish Dry saunas.  If you want to replicate these studies, you need a dry, Finnish Saunas that reach 79°c, or 174.2°, which should also be more than hot enough to kill any viruses on your skin.

Other Ways To Prevent Coronavirus Covid-19

#StayHome – The best way to slow the spread of Coronavirus is to stay home, and avoid any unnecessary interactions outside your immediate family while health care systems prepare.  So grab a book and stay home, here are a couple fun options…

Last update was on: April 27, 2020 7:15 pm

Frequently Washing Hands with foamy soap (like this) is by far the best protection against Covid-19.  Here’s an amazing thread that geeks about what actually happens to the fatty outer layer of the virus when you wash your hands – taking out the weakest link of any virus.

Stay Flexible – The CDC is now telling Americans to plan for disruptions to their everyday life.  Have a plan to work from home, keep the kids home from school, and avoiding public spaces.  If the virus takes hold near you it will be important to limit large gatherings.

Face Coverings are now being recommended for the general public by the CDC. 

N95 masks are the best way prevent the transmission and spread of the coronavirus.  However, they are reserved for hospital workers now.

It may be possible to still buy an N95 respirator is that is typically used in construction and industry, we recommend one like this but most are currently sold out.  

Due to the shortage, the CDC has actually released new guidelines for health care workers and the general public to use bandanas or scarfs. 

You might want to pick up a few basic bandanas like these – they may not be as good as N95 masks but they will slow the spread and protect those around you.  Remember, you may have the virus and spread it without knowing!

Vitamin C has been reported in clinical trials to successfully help treat coronavirus.  While there’s nothing scientific showing that Vitamin C tablets can help prevent the virus, there’s reason to believe tablets like these can help.

Hand Sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol is required to to reliably kill COVID-19, and it’s still not as effective as foamy soap and water (see why below).

And finally, we live in a very connected world and you don’t want to be unprepared if supply chains break down.  An emergency first aid/tool kit (we recommend something like this), medications, and necessities like contact lenses and glasses should be acquired now.

How Coronaviruses are Transmitted

Like other viruses, the coronaviruses are transmitted through the air. That’s why you see people wearing masks in China on news reports.

They’re attempting not to breathe in the virus, which would quickly make its way to the lungs and cause potential disease. What the news reports don’t tell you is that the virus is so small that it can enter paper masks.

Only a N95 respirator would keep it out of your lungs, we recommend one like this if available.  These non-medical masks are just as effective and have not been selling out yet, but you may scare children.

Just don’t hoard surgical n95 masks unnecessarily, because there’s a shortage for health care workers.

An infected person can sneeze or cough and spew out coronavirus droplets to just about anything in a 5-8 feet radius. Thus, the virus would be hanging out on top of counters, surfaces, chairs, toys, and whatever or whoever is in its way.

Similarly if an infected person uses a tissue to blow his nose into, the ‘snot’ would be contaminated with coronaviruses. If he leaves the tissue in the room and someone else comes in to throw it out, she touches the infected tissue and now can spread it to herself or others she touches. If she touches her own eyes or mouth, lips, or tongue, viruses have gained entry to the body. On the other hand, if she washes her hands immediately after removing the tissue, she most likely will not infect others.

It’s possible to transmit the coronavirus before you have symptoms, and thus, if you go to the gym, whatever equipment you touch will be contaminated with the virus. This means anyone can become a superspreader, someone who infects dozens of people. This is likely because the incubation time period is up to two weeks. 

Medical Treatment Lacking

Medical treatment for coronavirus is making sure the patient is well hydrated and sometimes using a ventilator to get oxygen into the lungs if needed. Sometimes an antiviral medication is used (Remdesivir).  According to WHO, Remdesiver “may be the best shot for treating Coronavirus.”

But really, the bottom line is that the medical profession has not been able to control viruses as a whole – and the approach is generally to wait it out and try to support the body’s immune system during the waiting period. The harsh part is that sometimes in the waiting period, the patient dies.

This sends many looking for other options, and unproven treatments. While some many treatments you’ll find on the internet are completely unfounded, there are good reasons to believe heat exposure may slow down or disable the virus in certain stages.

What is it that the virus needs to flourish? What is it that kills it? Many of these questions have already been answered in the medical literature.

What Does the Medical Literature Say?

Let’s go to some of that medical literature now.

Background Information on Coronavirus

  • Viruses die out when herd immunity – immunity of the population against the infection because a certain percentage of the population is immune to it – is found.  Sometimes like in the case of influenza viruses, the viruses cross over to other reservoir hosts such as animals, birds, etc.
  • The immune response to coronavirus infection causes heat shock proteins to be produced. Several pathways in the infected person will be activated in order to eliminate the coronavirus. (Saunas also cause heat shock proteins to be created in the body, thus contributing to the immune system process.)  Learn more about heat shock proteins in the sauna here.
  • The coronavirus uses the endoplasmic reticulum in the cell as a site for synthesis and processing of viral proteins. (Thus, if you can strengthen this part of the cell, you can conceivably prevent the infection.)
  • The mitochondria play an important role in antiviral immunity against SARS and the coronaviruses.
  • Frequently touched surfaces of a university classroom cleaned daily contained viable human coronaviruses.  (The virus lives in rooms…)

Is Sauna Temperature Enough to Kill Coronavirus?

  • Coronaviruses (MERS-CoV) died when under environmental circumstances of 56 degrees Celsius (132 degrees F) for 25 minutes. Increasing the temperature to 65 degrees Celsius (149 degrees F) was even better and only one minute was needed to kill viruses. No killing was observed after 2 hours at 25 degrees Celsius (77 degrees F).
  • The dried virus on smooth surfaces retained viability for over 5 days at temperatures of 22-25 degrees Celsius (72-77 degrees F) and relative humidity of 40-50%, typical of air-conditioned environments. However, viruses died quickly at higher temperatures and higher relative humidity (38 degrees Celsius – 100 degrees F – and relative humidity greater than 95%). This explains why Malaysia, Indonesia or Thailand with high temperature and high relative humidity environments do not have major community outbreaks of SARS.
  • At a relative humidity of 75%, infectivity of the coronavirus was very sensitive to temperature, decreasing two orders of magnitude between 19 and 25 degrees Celsius (77 degrees F).
  • At 4 degrees Celsius (39 degrees F), coronaviruses live up to 28 days but they can be inactivated at low levels of 20% relative humidity. The inactivation was more rapid at 20 degrees Celsius (68 degrees F) at all humidity levels. The viruses were inactivated more rapidly at 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees F) than at 20 degrees Celsius. When high numbers of viruses are deposited on surfaces, coronaviruses causing both GI symptoms and respiratory symptoms may survive for days on surfaces.
  • SARS-coronaviruses may be shed into the environment and transferred from environmental surfaces to hands of patients and healthcare providers. Once contaminated, hands can then initiate self-inoculation of mucous membrane of the nose, eyes, or mouth.
  • Coronavirus infectivity was completely lost after 14 days of incubation at 22 degrees Celsius (72 degrees F), 33 degrees Celsius (91.4 degrees F), or 37 degrees Celsius (98.6 degrees F) but remained constant at 4 degrees Celsius (39.2 degrees F) for the same length of time.
  • SARS coronavirus is inactivated at 56 degrees Celsius (132.8 degrees F), reducing the titer to below detection.

Based on these points alone, it seems a sauna can kill coronavirus. Traditional saunas are generally in the range of 150-175 degrees F.

Infrared saunas use a lower temperature of 120-140 degrees F.  Both traditional and infrared sauna temperatures will kill coronaviruses from what we know from extrapolation from other coronaviruses.

Thus, if an infected person with coronavirus went into your sauna, could theoretically kill the virus by the heat.

If you have been exposed to coronavirus, no doubt the virus is on your skin. It could be killed by the temperatures in the sauna. The more virus particles you kill, the quicker your recovery because the virus isn’t reproducing.

However, if the virus has infected your lungs, it’s unlikely the sauna will help treat the virus. By the time the hot air reaches your lungs, it is much cooler. Surely, it’s warmer than normal and might help, but it’s unlikely to cure the virus in one sitting.

There are additional benefits to regular sauna use that will promote good health and could offer additional defense against sickness.

Saunas also increase heat shock protein production, which contribute to protection of cells and survival against environmental stress (such as virus attack).

They participate in protein assembly, turnover and regulation and protect the cell by stabilizing unfolded proteins. This then allows the cell time to repair itself or remake any proteins that have been damaged.

So does the sauna kill coronavirus? Yes, a sauna can kill and deactivate the coronavirus. However, once the virus has infected the lungs it’s unlikely to help.

Important Things To Consider

A sauna is great to prevent sickness, but there are two important caveats of treating any illness with a sauna.

The first is hydration, which should always be an essential part of the sauna routine, and is even more important when you are sick. If you are dehydrated and not maintaining enough fluids, you are probably not ready for a sauna.

The first is that you should not be in a public space when have the flu, especially a potential coronavirus! Never go to a public sauna or gym if you have flu symptoms.

A home sauna with supervision is the only way to safely battle a virus with a sauna. Consult your doctor about any heard conditions, or medical issues first.

SUMMARY:

Sauna can likely reach temperatures capable of killing Coronavirus, but it is not a cure for Covid-19 as the heat will not reach an infected persons lungs. 

People who sauna frequently MAY have some protection, as saunas have been shown to decrease all-cause mortality, common colds, and decrease pneumonia risk. 

There are no sauna coronavirus studies at this time, but we know how we’ll be passing the time.

Click Here To Learn More About Sauna Health Benefits and How It May Protect Against Coronavirus.

As we take the time to reset, meditate, and reflect on these difficult times, we wish you and yours the best through these difficult times. 

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