Swim + Sauna = Red face


I swim three times a week for 40 minutes and sauna for 15. When I come out of the sauna my face is beet red and stays that way for about 1/2 hour — is this a sign of something wrong? Also, is it bad to work-out (sit-ups, push-ups) in the sauna?

— Flushed

Dear Flushed,

While swimming and in the sauna, your body is working and producing heat. One of the ways your body rids itself of heat is by increasing blood circulation to your skin, because with the increased surface area, the heat can evaporate more quickly. This is what causes your face to look beet red. Both swimming and sauna-ing can also cause dehydration, which impedes your body's cooling mechanism. To alleviate this problem, help your body stay hydrated by sipping water between laps and while in the sauna. Try keeping a water bottle near the end of the lane within arm's reach. That way you're more likely to be consistent about drinking water regularly. Also, try cooling off before going into the sauna or cut back on the time you spend inside. It seems like your body is responding naturally to your exercise routine, and if your red face doesn't bother you, it might not be a cause for concern.

Working out in the sauna is not recommended. It would be similar to exercising on an extremely hot day. Dehydration would be your biggest problem — potentially causing some wicked headaches, at the very least. One of the main benefits of a sauna is relaxation, so why not kick back and save your exercising for the rest of the gym? See the answer to Benefits of sauna in the Go Ask Alice! General Health archive for more information about the health benefits of using a sauna.

Last updated Jun 17, 2015
Originally published Dec 11, 1995