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Saunas for Allergies: Relief for Seasonal Symptoms?

For many, including us, allergies are a seasonal (or even year-round) battle. Stuffiness, congestion, itchy eyes — this can be frustrating and draining to deal with at work, with friends and family, or even at home. While medications ease these symptoms, some natural remedies like heat therapy can complement your prescribed treatment plans. Even better, there are a host of additional benefits that come with sauna use.

What Causes Allergies?

Starting with the basics, allergies (or hay fever) are caused by the immune system overreacting to harmless substances like pollen, dust mites, or pet dander. When these allergens come into contact with the body, the immune system mistakenly identifies them as serious threats and releases histamine. This chemical triggers symptoms like a runny nose, sneezing, and itchy eyes (all of which are designed to expel the “threat” from your body). The result is tissue inflammation, a tightened feeling in your chest, and mucus production to get the "invader" out of your system.

Common Treatment Methods

There are several treatments you’ll probably recognize for the symptoms triggered by histamine:

  • Antihistamines: These medications block histamine from binding to its receptors, reducing allergy symptoms by preventing the cascade of reactions we mentioned above. You can think of histamine as a key that unlocks a door in your cells, triggering the release of mucus, inflammation, etc. Antihistamines essentially act as a decoy key, fitting into the receptor but not activating the response.
  • Nasal Corticosteroids: Steroid sprays work by soothing inflammation in the nasal passages, relieving congestion and sneezing. Inflammation is your body's attempt to wall off the perceived threat, so limiting the inflammatory response and allowing your swollen nasal passages to shrink makes it easier to breathe.
  • Allergy Shots: Injections that gradually desensitize the body to specific allergens can mitigate future immune system overreactions. Repeated exposure to small amounts of the allergen in a controlled setting teaches the immune system that it's not a threat when you encounter it in everyday life, resulting in a significant relaxation of allergy severity over time.

Sauna Benefits for Allergies

While saunas won't cure allergies, research suggests they may offer relief from several of the major symptoms. Here's how:

Opens Nasal Passages

A traditional sauna’s combination of heat and steam significantly improves airflow by loosening mucus buildup and widening nasal passages. This reduces nasal and sinus congestion and makes breathing feel easier. Traditional saunas are the best way to achieve this because infrared saunas don’t produce steam and steam rooms often aren’t hot enough for the full benefits of heat therapy. On top of sinus and nasal congestion, sauna use has also been shown to improve chest congestion via respiratory tract mucus hydration, clearing your entire airway for more comfortable breathing.

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Reduces Inflammation

Allergic reactions are characterized by inflammation in the body's tissues, which creates a feeling of stuffiness and tenderness. Saunas induce a sweating response and reduce inflammation throughout the body. This can be particularly helpful for those with allergies because inflammation often worsens congestion, swelling, and discomfort in the sinuses and nasal passages. By reducing this, saunas may help ease allergy symptoms and promote an overall feeling of well-being.

Expels Toxins

Sweating is the body's natural way of detoxifying itself, and it’s been theorized that saunas can help eliminate allergens through this process. While there's currently limited scientific evidence to directly support this, more and more research is coming out every day about sauna’s detoxification benefits. Sweating helps regulate body temperature and may also remove some allergens that have settled on the skin's surface, which could remove these surface-level irritants and reduce their ability to trigger a reaction.

Boosts Immune Health

Saunas may also indirectly support the immune system by promoting relaxation and improving circulation. The heat can increase blood flow, allowing immune cells to move more freely and reach areas of concern faster. A well-functioning immune system may be better equipped to manage inflammation, which can contribute to allergy symptoms. Therefore, improved circulation and immune health could theoretically deliver anti-inflammatory signals and responses throughout the body quicker.

Reduces Stress

Stress is a known trigger for worsening and intensifying allergy reactions and inflammation. Thankfully, saunas promote relaxation by lowering cortisol levels (the stress hormone) and releasing endorphins. This stress reduction may lead to an improvement in allergy symptoms.

Enhanced Wellness & Soothed Spring Allergies

While allergies can significantly disrupt your daily life, saunas may offer a natural path towards comfort. But the benefits of saunas extend far beyond allergy relief. Regular sauna use has been linked to improved cardiovascular health, muscle relaxation, and pain management. They can also promote better sleep and a sense of well-being, making it a valuable tool for stress reduction and overall wellness.

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If you're interested in incorporating saunas into your wellness routine, you have several options. Home saunas offer the ultimate convenience of at-home use, allowing you to create a personalized spa experience whenever you need it. However, many gyms, health clubs, and spas are increasingly recognizing the popularity of saunas and are adding them to their amenities, too. This makes saunas readily accessible for those who may not have the space or budget for a home sauna.

Check out our home sauna’s features, available financing options, and HSA/FSA-eligibility today!

Medical Disclaimer: The information contained in this post is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice or to take the place of such advice or treatment from a personal physician. All readers/viewers of this content are advised to consult their doctors or qualified health professionals regarding specific health questions or before embarking on any new health or wellness routine, including saunas and cold plunging. Neither the author(s) nor the publisher of this content take responsibility for possible health consequences of any person or persons reading or following the information in this educational content. All viewers of this content, especially those taking prescription or over-the-counter medications, should consult their physicians before beginning any cold plunging routine or other health or wellness program.