Infrared waves are a type of energy that registers on the electromagnetic spectrum that we encounter every day. The heat you feel from a fire, a sidewalk on a warm day or even a human body is infrared heat. There are no serious dangers from this type of heat during normal exposure; however, the source of the heat and the amount of time exposed can have an effect.
Infrared heat is on the same spectrum as UV light, X-rays and other forms of radiant heat and light. While it is on the lower end of the visibility spectrum, infrared is still a wave that radiates through objects, including humans, causing a misconception that infrared can cause radiation poisoning. Humans emit infrared heat picked up by infrared cameras, but we do not emit radiation from our bodies. The only evidence of any type of radiation sickness associated with infrared is in subjects addicted to spending hours in an infrared sauna. The radiation comes not from the infrared itself, but from the objects that are used to heat the sauna emitting particles that are absorbed when too much time is spent in the sauna.
Infrared Heat Benefits
Heat lamps, radiant heat for homes, and saunas all use infrared to supply heat when it is needed. Heating a home with radiant heat can be beneficial when other sources are not available. Heat lamps offer therapy for arthritis and other joint and muscular problems where heat assists with increased vascular function. The therapeutic affects of a sauna are similar. As with any type of heat or beneficial treatment however, moderation and proper use is the key. Within guidelines and limited use, these types of infrared heat have little or no incidence of health hazards.
Lack of proper hydration during a sauna, overheating due to overexposure to the heat, or an existing medical condition exacerbated by exposure can pose a problem and should be taken into consideration before any exposure to infrared heat. While the problems are not contributed to the infrared source itself, the cause is the heat produced and the effect it may have on an individual.