Heat stress: comparison of short exposure to severe dry and wet heat in saunas

Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 1976 Mar;57(3):126-9.


Sixty subjects, 33 males and 27 females, from 18 to 63 years of age, were exposed to two kinds of saunas: the Finnish sauna (dry sauna) with an air temperature of 80 to 90 C and a relative humidity of 50%, and the wet sauna with an air temperature of 45 to 50 C and a relative humidity of 100%. There was a rest period of one week between the two experiments. For the 60 subjects the mean duration in the wet sauna was 19.6 minutes and in the dry sauna it was 17.4 minutes. After 10 and 20 minutes of exposure in the wet sauna the mean rectal temperature was 38.1 and 38.5 respectively, the mean skin temperature 40.2 and 40.4 C, the respiratory rate 21 and 22.9 breaths/min, the pulse rate 113 and 135.4 beats/min, the mean diastolic pressure 76.1 and 71.9 mm Hg, and the mean systolic pressure 115.7 and 123.5 mm Hg. Comparing the different physiological parameters in both saunas showed significant differences only during the first 10 minutes: a greater drop in diastolic blood pressure, a higher increase in systolic blood pressure, and a greater rise in pulse rate in the dry sauna. After 20 minutes there were no significant differences between any of the above parameters. It is concluded that the heat strain and hence the risk in both saunas are similar and exposure in either sauna exceeding 10 minutes may be dangerous.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Baths*
  • Blood Pressure
  • Body Temperature
  • Electrocardiography
  • Female
  • Heart Rate
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Rectum
  • Respiration
  • Skin Temperature
  • Steam Bath*
  • Steam*
  • Time Factors


  • Steam