Can Wearing a Mask in a Sauna Keep You Safe?

Medically reviewed by Dr. Justin Ternes
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Sauna use has plenty of health benefits. From helping with cardiovascular health to relieving stress from torn muscles, you can find a lot of health-related reasons to seek out a steamy sauna session. But under these current times of unprecedented pandemic, is it safe to use a sauna? And should you wear a mask when you enter your gym’s or spa’s sauna?

Wearing a mask in a sauna is good practice if you’re feeling sick, and a good precaution in general. It won’t prevent you from coming in contact with bacteria or mold that’s in the sauna, but it could prevent you from inhaling mold spores. If a public sauna seems dirty, don’t use it at all.

Saunas are a great way to reduce stress. And in these times, that has become more and more important for daily life. But how can you relax in the sauna safely? Since there seems to be a lot of sweat associated with the pastime, how can you reduce the spreading of germs and viruses this way? It’s a great question that a lot of people are asking. Let’s take a look at wearing masks during sauna use and other scenarios; read on!

Does Wearing a Mask Prevent Germ Spread In a Sauna?

Healthy model woman in protective mask

Okay, safety is everyone’s number one priority these days (by the way, we have another guide on sauna safety and etiquette). You want to step into your gym’s sauna but are wondering if wearing a mask will even help in this kind of environment.

While it does get hot and sweaty in a sauna, this won’t affect how well a mask will perform in preventing the spread of germs. In fact, the conditions of your public sauna should have no impact on how effective a mask works.

This has to do with how masks block the spread of germs. While there has been quite a lot of misinformation on this one, the basic idea of masks is pretty simple. Keep in mind that N95 masks like this batch (on Amazon) are quite different from typical cloth masks. The N95 mask will keep many more nasty contaminants from entering your airwaves. Cloth masks, however, do something else.

Cloth masks perform a very simple job: block molecules of saliva that come out of your mouth. You might not be aware, but every time you open your mouth to speak, cough or sneeze, you spread germs in the air from molecules of saliva that shoot out of your mouth. Pleasant, right? Masks prevent this from happening by blocking your mouth with a piece of cloth.

Since gyms and saunas are public places where lots of body fluids are produced, mainly sweat, you should be very careful in these conditions. Mask use is always important as these areas are perfect breeding grounds for viruses and bacterias.

Should You Wear a Mask in a Sauna?

Using medical face masks and measuring social distance in a small infrared sauna

When it comes to making use inside your sauna, there is some debate on whether you should or shouldn’t wear a mask. The reality is, as the COVID-19 pandemic progressed, scientists had to keep up with the changes. This led to some decisions rolling back. Mask use seemed to be one of these decisions.

When exercising, even the WHO doesn’t recommend you wear a mask. While this might go against previous recommendations, keeping up with recent changes is important to practicing health safety.

Much like exercise, when you are in a sauna, your perspiration and your breathing get heavier. In this way, sauna use is quite similar to exercise.

For this reason, you might opt to forgo the mask during your sauna session. At the very least, you’ll be more comfortable. If you are immunocompromised or have other conditions, however, perhaps err on the side of caution and wear a mask.

If you have any questions, it’s always best to ask a medical professional. Only they can give you the reliable medical advice you require. While breathing is a common spreader of the virus, sweat is another. So you’ll want to make sure you use fresh towels to sit on and try your best to limit any contact with other people’s sweat.

To stay protected in the sauna, it’s better to:

  • Use the sauna alone
  • Make sure that the sauna is clean
  • Use hand sanitizer when appropriate
  • Wear shower shoes or flip-flops inside

Do Saunas Naturally Kill Germs?

When you think of a sauna, most likely, the first thing that comes to mind is the heat. It’s pretty much the heart of every sauna session. You go in for the sweat, but is this heat hot enough to kill off harmful contaminants, like germs?

Saunas can get hot, upward of 195°F, but this is not enough to kill off all types of germs and pathogens. The COVID virus, for example, has been known to survive in temperatures up to 165°F.

Some saunas, including infrared saunas, have pockets where the temp can’t get so high, so viruses live on. It’s a pretty common misconception that a sauna will kill off germs and bacteria. In some cases, the environment of a sauna can become a petri dish for all kinds of nasty organisms.

This is why you always want to use your own towel and wear shoes when using public saunas. Also, make sure the sauna is undergoing proper cleaning weekly, if not daily, and check out our guide on the topic of sauna cleaning for more details.

Wrapping Up

When it comes to wearing a mask during sauna use, there is some debate on whether you should wear one or not. While it will certainly help prevent the spread of harmful viruses like COVID-19, a sauna session can generally be quite hard on the body. Like exercise, sauna use can bring up your heartbeat and get you breathing heavily.

Since the WHO say that you don’t need to wear a mask while exercising, you may not need one when using a sauna. But it is your choice at the end of the day. If you have other conditions or are immunocompromised, we recommend always consult your doctor before taking any chances.

At the very least, you should use your own towel and practice other healthy safety when using a sauna. Also, believe the myth that a sauna is somehow self-sanitizing. This is rather far from the truth.

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