Saunas and steam rooms can be used for a variety of medicinal purposes, including relaxing tense muscles and easing breathing issues. However, proper use of saunas and steam rooms is imperative, not only for courtesy's sake but also to ensure personal safety. Making sure you know how to use the sauna and steam room properly is the first step to having an enjoyable experience.
Shower before entering public saunas and steam rooms. The difference between a sauna and a steam room is that a sauna most often provides dry heat, while a steam room provides moist heat. Steam rooms in particular are a good environment for bacteria to flourish. Showering before entering can cut back on some of that bacteria.
Drink a glass of water before entering. Saunas and steam rooms are meant to induce extreme sweating, which can be cleansing but also can cause dehydration. The dry heat in saunas provide especially dangerous potential for dehydration.
Wear a towel or swimming costume. Not only does this promote good hygiene, it also keeps other patrons from feeling uncomfortable. If nudity is permitted in the sauna or steam room, bring a towel to sit on.
Read all of the warnings and instructions posted outside of the sauna or steam room. These instructions will include advice on medical conditions that could be irritated by the environment and advice on how to get the most out of a session.
Stay away from all controls. Do not fiddle with the temperature controls or prop the door open to lower the temperature. If the sauna or steam room is too hot or cold, consult a worker. Never pour water on any of the steaming devices, as many of the newer steam rooms are electric. Dousing those steamers with water could short out the system.
Limit the amount of bathing time, especially on the first few trips. Spending too much time in a sauna or steam room can cause dehydration. Try to leave the sauna or steam room after 15 or 20 minutes, at least for the first few visits.
Cool down after a visit to the steam room or sauna. Allow your body temperature to gradually adjust after exiting, and wait a few minutes before entering a cooling pool or other cooling area.
If you have any health issues that could be irritated by a trip to the steam room or sauna, don't push your luck. Saunas and steam rooms can cause very serious side effects for those with specific health issues, including people with heart problems and pregnant women.