So there has been a lot of different opinions coming out about saunas and the fire service. Many of these opinions can be very compelling on both sides of the argument. Now, I am no expert by any means, but my travels for our organization and interacts with fellow firefighters, experts, and others brings me to write this article. The IAFF felt so compelled about the issue they issued a statement about the use of saunas for detoxification after an fire incident. Now after reading this statement and talking to several firefighters from the US and abroad, it got me to think about the issue more and more.
In my opinion, there really isn’t enough focused research to make a decisive conclusion. So article over right? Well now, just wait one minute here. I think there can be a case still be made for the use of saunas in the firehouse. There are so many department who have already committed to the sauna in the firehouse and I’ve even heard of a station here in Ohio that had it built in when they designed a new station. So should we rip these saunas out and throw them out? I don’t think that should be the case.
Now think of the properties of a sauna, are there any contraindications for it’s general use? Even in the statement from the IAFF, they readily admit there really is no contraindications or potential life threatening reason to not sure a sauna, unless your drunk. Which I would sincerely hope we aren’t at the firehouse drunk after a fire incident. So what is the worst that can happen? You become dehydrated? I know the statement advised it can cause heat stress and be adverse to those with a heart condition, but really I would hope yearly physicals would find those with heart conditions that would be adversely effected by sauna use.
So here is my opinion on the picture as a whole. The adverse effects of sauna use really can be solved by drinking water and not exercising in the sauna, and by the way even the companies who sell these saunas advice against preforming exercise in the sauna during use. So we really shouldn’t be doing that anyways. The benefits of a sauna in mental health has been pretty well documented. Which God knows we could use any help we can get in the realm. And as for the cancer issue, it’s not going to hurt you. I think that if there is a .001% chance that the sauna is going to help remove toxins from our skin, don’t you think you’d rather take that precaution than not? My advice, lets allow the major players in the occupational cancer realm do some more research and if we find otherwise continue to use the sauna. Who couldn’t use a little break and relaxation while at the firehouse? But I seriously doubt we will find any evidence that says it’s going to harm us and I really think it is only something we can benefit from. So what’s the real downside to having a sauna in the firehouse?
As always, stay safe out there and take care of one another. We are and always will be each other’s keepers.
About the Author: Nick Magoteaux is the Co-Executive Director and President of Brothers Helping Brothers. Nick has over 15 years of experience in public safety and is a student of the fire service. Nick has studied leadership extensively over the last few years and is always trying to find something new to introduce to his local fire service brothers.