Infrared saunas also supposedly come with a whole list of health benefits due to its high temperature; however, is an infrared sauna hot enough to kill lice?
There is no evidence that infrared saunas can effectively kill lice. Despite the fact that lice can’t survive temperatures above 130 °F which is within the reach of most infrared saunas, the temperature at the scalp cannot safely reach that temperature without injury.
Let’s first examine how an infrared sauna works and examine why it is unlikely to kill lice on human hair effectively.
How Does an Infrared Sauna Work?
Saunas have become increasingly popular places to unwind and relax after a long day. Between traditional wood-burning saunas and modern saunas such as the infrared sauna, more and more people opt to use the more modern ones.
Traditional wood-burning saunas work by using woodfire to heat up the stones on a metal stove, which in turn warms the air and provides heat for the entire sauna. The process of convection and conduction generates the heat in wood-burning saunas from the heated air.
Infrared saunas work in a different way. Infrared saunas use infrared heaters to produce infrared light. The infrared light then emits heat, which is then absorbed by human skin. This results in your whole body feeling warm, causing you to sweat.
Instead of heating up the air in the room, infrared saunas work by directly sending heat to the human body. As a result, the body heats up faster than the air in the room. Because of the unique way it operates, it is not even considered a sauna by some.
We all know that extremely high temperatures can kill microorganisms. You boil your water before drinking it so that the high boiling temperature would kill any bacteria that might have been in the water.
Since infrared saunas operate at high temperatures, it logically follows that they can kill lice and harmful microorganisms. Is that assumption correct? Let’s first look at what lice are in the next section and tackle this question after.
What Are Lice?
Lice are tiny insects that live by feeding off blood from the human scalp. They tend to live in human hair, which provides a stable climate for head lice to live and thrive in a temperature of about 30°C (86°F) and air humidity greater than 90%.
When more than a few lice invade a human scalp, the person suffers from what is known as lice infestation. Typically, a person with a lice infestation has about 10 to 12 lice on them. A person with a lice infestation can transfer lice to another person’s hair if they come into close contact with each other.
One of the most common signs of lice infestation is itching. Someone with head lice might feel a burning itching sensation on their scalp and feel the urge to scratch constantly.
Can an Infrared Sauna Kill Lice?
The average temperature that an infrared sauna user might experience ranges from 100˚F to 150˚F (37°C to 65°C). However, the sauna’s temperature can be adjusted by the sauna user – some users are content with lower temperatures.
Despite the higher temperatures users might experience in a sauna, there is no evidence that it is enough to kill lice because the lice themselves are not likely to be exposed to the required 130 °F necessary to kill them.
The reason for this is simple: humans are warm-blooded creatures. Warm-blood creatures are able to regulate their internal body temperatures so that it is maintained at roughly the same levels, regardless of external temperatures.
This means that even in extremely high or extremely low temperatures, the body will do its best to control the internal temperature and cause it to stay at a certain level. In the case of humans, that temperature is 98.6˚F (32°C).
This is different from cold-blooded animals. The internal body temperatures of cold-blooded animals fluctuate according to their external environment. Unlike warm-blooded animals, their bodies do not attempt to control the internal temperatures by causing them to stay within a certain range. Examples of cold-blooded animals are reptiles, such as snakes and lizards.
Why is this significant?
No matter how high the temperature in the sauna is, your body will not allow your internal temperature to rise significantly. This is why your body sweats – it is a way for your body to release heat and keep your body cool. This also protects your internal organs from damage.
This means that your body will also naturally regulate your scalp’s temperature so that it does not get dangerously high. If the opposite occurred and your scalp’s temperature rose to the external temperature of the infrared sauna, your brain could be in danger.
The body’s ability to self-regulate its internal temperature is unfortunately also good news for the lice that live on the scalp. Because the temperature on the scalp’s surface does not rise to a threatening level, lice are likely to survive a session in the infrared sauna.
Can an Infrared Sauna Kill Other Bacterias and Viruses?
If infrared saunas cannot kill lice, what about other bacterias and viruses? The question of what can kill bacterias and viruses has become increasingly popular, especially during the 2020 coronavirus pandemic. Many rumors and health claims have arisen, one of them that spending time in a sauna can kill harmful bacterias and viruses.
However, the same logic applies when answering the question of whether an infrared sauna can kill bacterias and viruses: because the internal body temperature is relatively constant, the bacterias and viruses that have made their way into your body would not be affected.
For the bacterias and viruses in your body to be killed, your entire internal body temperature would have to rise to near boiling temperature. This is simply not how the human body works.
Does an Infrared Sauna Boost the Immune System?
Another question that is often asked is whether infrared saunas play some role in boosting the immune system. The argument goes that since being a sauna causes you to sweat, toxins in the body are more easily removed, and the immune system gets a boost as a result.
It is true that sweating in a sauna allows toxins in the body to be removed, and that sweating also improves blood circulation. When you sweat, your body is attempting to release stored up heat energy. The heat energy is then released through your body as sweat droplets. Sweating is aided by blood circulation, which transfers heat onto the surface of your body to be released as sweat. This is how sweating improves blood circulation.
There is some evidence that infrared saunas may play a role in normalizing blood pressure and treating congestive heart failure. A study done in 1989 shows that people who use saunas had a lower risk of getting the common cold over a six month period compared to the control group. This study suggests that regular sauna usage is likely to reduce the incidence of the common cold. Whether this is because saunas significantly boost the immune system still requires further research.
Infrared saunas are great places to work out a sweat and to feel more relaxed. Using infrared saunas frequently undoubtedly comes with certain health benefits. However, there is no evidence that they can effectively kill lice.
This is because humans are warm-blooded creatures and have the ability to regulate our body temperatures so that it does not rise to levels that might be harmful to us. This is also why there is no evidence that infrared saunas can kill bacterias and viruses.
However, this does not dampen the positive sense of well-being that many people experience from using infrared saunas. If you haven’t before, try using one at your local health center this weekend – you might find it to be a thoroughly enjoyable experience!