Can Saunas Cause You to Get a Sore Throat?

Medically reviewed by Dr. Justin Ternes
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Saunas are known to leave their users in a euphoric and relaxed state during and after their visits. Additionally, routine sauna visits can have lasting, compounding effects that improve your overall health. However, are there any health-related downsides to saunas? Can Saunas cause a sore throat?

Saunas can’t cause a sore throat directly. However, germs and bacteria brought into the sauna by other people could infect you and cause a sore throat. Therefore, you should practice good hygiene in saunas to prevent catching a contagious illness or infection. 

Anytime you go to a location where other people are present, you have a chance of catching their germs or other pathogens. These can cause you to get sick and get a sore throat. Although spreading germs to other people is not unique to a sauna, it can be slightly easier to catch a bug from someone else in the sauna. If you want to learn all the details on how you can catch a sore throat in the sauna, read on!

Can Sauna Use Cause a Sore Throat

Throat Pain

Saunas may cause sore throats a bit more than any other public area. It can be easier to catch something because the warmth of the sauna is a perfect environment for the replication of germs and bacteria. However, the dryness is not. Pathogens replicate better with proper heat; however, they don’t spread easily in dry conditions.

While saunas are “dry,” i.e., they generally have low humidity, there are moisture-producing things in saunas. Those moisture producers are people with their sweat. So, if another sauna guest is sick and sweaty, they can spread their pathogens to you and leave you with a sore throat.

The ability to spread nasty bugs is compounded by the tight quarters of most saunas. If you’re in a sauna with many other people, there’s a very high chance you’ll breathe in vapor they exhaled and catch sore-throat causing viruses or bacteria in your esophagus. 

While saunas can create a perfect breeding ground for germs, especially if they haven’t been cleaned properly (which we discuss more in our guide on keeping saunas clean), viruses, and bacteria alike, saunas also have immune system boosting effects that can help your body prevent and better fight off colds if used regularly. 

Effects of Sauna Use on a Sore Throat

A sore throat is usually caused by a virus that causes the common cold. You might also experience a runny nose, congestion, sneezing, and coughing. Or you might have these same symptoms but worse and with more ill effects. If you have these symptoms with muscle soreness, fever, and headaches, you likely have the flu.

While some of the symptoms are the same, the flu and the cold are very different conditions. If you think you have the flu, you should probably rest and avoid the sauna. The flu usually causes a fever, and you wouldn’t want to push your body even hotter by using a sauna. 

So, avoid the sauna if you have the flu. But if you have a cold, that’s a whole other ballgame. The sauna is a free game for you to visit, and you’ll likely be better off sooner for it. Note: If you are visiting a sauna with a cold, be mindful of others.

Try to use the sauna when there are little to no additional guests and use proper hygiene. Wipe down your area and sanitize and wear a mask.

Can a Sauna be Used to “Sweat Out” a Cold? 

Senior woman sweats in a sauna

You’ve probably heard people say, “I’m going to sweat out this cold,” but what exactly does that mean? While it sounds like this claim is not founded by science, there’s actually evidence to back up this claim. Hot saunas can raise your internal body temperature to as high as 101°F (38.3°C).

This rise in your body temperature is known as hyperthermia, and this same increase in your core body temperature is what happens when you have a fever. So why is this fever-like rise in your body’s core temperature important?

Well, the reason your body puts itself in a fever state is to combat and kill serious viruses like the flu. Flu and other viruses do not fare so well at higher temperatures; they more quickly die off. The higher temperature allows your body to implement an increased immune response to kill the invaders.

In this sense, you are manually forcing your body into a fever state to “sweat out” your cold and sore throat. When you have the flu, your body will very likely knock you into a fever itself, so you don’t need to double-dip with a visit to a sauna. 

How Saunas Help with the Common Cold

Since the common cold is a virus, antibiotics (which combat bacterial infections) won’t help. While saunas are not a “cure-all” for common colds, they can certainly help reduce symptoms and perhaps lead to a faster recovery. Saunas can reduce inflammation (such as a sore throat), open up nasal passages, and help clear up congestion.

While alleviating these cold symptoms, the increased heat can also help kill the virus in your body. Routine use of a sauna has numerous immune-boosting effects, which can help prevent you from catching a cold in the future. 

Can Saunas Soothe Your Sore Throat? 

Yes, saunas can help soothe your sore throat. The increased heat improves blood flow in your body which reduces inflammation. A sore throat is an irritation and inflammation brought about by viruses and bacteria and worsened by the coughing they can cause. 

Preventing a Sore Throat from Sauna Use

Proper hygiene is vital to ensuring you don’t pick up a sore throat or other illness at the sauna. When you use the sauna, you should avoid touching your face as you can spread germs from your hand to your nasal passages.

Additionally, you should sanitize your hands after touching the inside of the sauna (door handles, water ladle, bench, etc.) Before you sit down, you should sanitize the area you’ll be sitting in too. Then, sit on a towel to prevent pathogens from spreading from the bench to your body. 

If you’re worried, you should also avoid the sauna if other people are using it. In such a confined space, you can quickly end up breathing in vapors someone else exhaled. If you want to use the sauna with other people, you can consider wearing a mask to prevent the spread of vapor-transferred pathogens.

Lastly, you should prep your body to fight off any bacteria or illness you do come in contact with: get good sleep, stay hydrated, and consider taking a simple Vitamin C supplement like Emergen-C 1000mg Vitamin C Powder (on Amazon).

Are Saunas and Steam Rooms Sanitary? 

Whether a sauna or steam room is sanitary or not depends highly on the owner and the frequency of their cleanings. Most saunas in gyms and health clubs are kept clean as we argued in our guide all about their cleanliness.

Some of them even post outside the door the last time the room has been cleaned, while others are questionable at best. If you walk into a sauna and it looks icky or you can see mold and mildew, leave and never come back. In fact, maybe even call the health department. 

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