HydroBlog March 23, 2020

Combating COVID-19: Practical Suggestions

Russian Steam Bath

With the Russian Steam Bath, you don't have to leave home for a full body spa!  It is different than a steam room because the person taking it can have their head out of the steam, which increases tolerance for the technique and allows people to enjoy it more.  Also, it is much easier to do anywhere because instead of having to have a steam room you can do it with simple household equipment, such as a bed sheet and electric tea kettle.

Effects / Benefits

  • Induces sweating, increases blood flow to the skin
  • Increases metabolism
  • Stimulates immune response
  • Helps sinus passages to open up
  • Helpful for colds/influenza and illnesses of viral origin
  • Good for muscle aches and discomfort
  • Helpful for rheumatoid arthritis
  • Sometimes used as preparation for short cold treatments, such as the cold bath

Contraindications / Precautions
History of heart problems or arteriosclerosis

Debilitated, emaciated or feeble persons may not be suitable for this technique.

Diabetes- seek medical advice, use extreme caution and avoid doing the foot bath.  The steam bath could cause blood sugar fluctuations, especially not suitable if on insulin.

If blood pressure is elevated, it is not recommended to do this technique as it could cause further BP elevation.

It is not recommended to do this technique alone as it could cause fainting, and the person experiencing the steam bath needs an attendant to offer water to drink and cold compresses.

Be extremely cautious to avoid kicking or knocking over the tea kettle, which could cause spilling of boiling hot water and burns.

It is encouraged to have persons of the same gender assisting with this technique if they are not related family members, to increase relaxation and sense of security/modesty.

Straight wooden or plastic chair (avoid metal which could cause burns when in contact with the steam)

Bed sheet (a blanket can also be substituted)

Pitcher of cool or room temperature drinking water and cup, as well as 1-2 glasses of hot drinking water to encourage sweating (can use clear non-caffeinated herb tea also)

Hot foot bath equipment (basin and pitcher to pour in hot water)

Cold compress  equipment (basin, ice water, wash cloth)

Electric tea kettle (some people use a hot plate with normal tea kettle on top, but that can be extremely dangerous if stepped on with a bare foot (causing severe burns), or if the sheet drags across it (fire danger).  Electric tea kettles (or some types of rice cookers) are much safer because the unit is totally enclosed without any exposed heat surfaces which could cause burns or fires.

*Place tea kettle under the chair seat, being sure to point the steam toward the back- away from the persons legs.

*Fold a towel and place it on the seat of the chair, draping down over the front of the chair
to protect the person’s legs from steam.

*Drape the sheet around the chair as a tent and let the steam heat it up a little bit while the person to take it is getting ready.

*Prepare a large basin full of hot water for the hot foot bath (the water temperature should be about 103 to 104 degrees F to begin/ 39.4-40 degrees Celsius, or not too uncomfortably hot at the time they put their feet into it).

*The person preparing to experience the steam bath should prepare by drinking plenty of water earlier in the day or at least drink 1-2 glasses of water 15-30 minutes before starting the technique.

*The person should be wearing a thin cotton garment to protect the skin from steam but not so thick that it will block the transfer of temperature from the steam. A hospital gown or very thin cotton t-shirt and shorts, for example (it’s not recommended to try taking this type of steam bath without clothing, as the steam can cause great discomfort on the skin as it rises up around the chair).

*Open the sheet and the have the person sit on the chair with the towel hanging down over the front of the chair to protect the back of their legs from any steam.

*Drape the sheet like a tent around their shoulders and wrap a towel around their neck on top of the sheet to help keep it in place. Make sure the bottom edge of the sheet doesn’t touch any heat or electricity source in back (steam from kettle should not be blocked by the sheet touching the steam outlet).

*Slide the basin of hot water over to where the person is sitting and help them to lift the sheet and then lift up their feet and put them into the water.  The person assisting should hold their feet as they go into the water so that they will be able to tell if the water is too hot.

*Let the bottom of the sheet drape over the foot bath basin to cover it and keep heat inside the sheet tent.  Prepare to continue the steam bath for a total of 15-30 minutes.

*Offer 1-2 glasses of warm or hot water or clear herbal tea at the beginning of the session to encourage sweating.

*Keep the foot bath hot by adding hot water once or twice during the steam bath.  Usually people get used to the temperature quickly so it can be increased a little.  Avoid letting the foot bath cool down, as it will have negative and uncomfortable effects.

*Offer water from time to time as they take the steam bath, at least once or twice.  It’s better to use room temperature water, as cold water could prevent the person from sweating.  If they are already sweating profusely and feel uncomfortable, they may prefer to use cold water.

*When sweating begins apply cold compresses to the forehead.  Refresh the cold compress every 3 – 5 minutes after that, or as often as needed for comfort.  As the person feels hotter and sweats more, use the cold compress more often, having it wetter (wringing it out less), and also wipe their face with it.  This will increase comfort and tolerance for the heat/steam technique.

*Check the person’s pulse at the neck (click here for instructions) when they seem to be sweating quite a bit or feeling uncomfortable at all. When the pulse is over 100 apply a bag of ice wrapped in a was cloth over their heart.  If the pulse elevates over 140, terminate the session. Be sure not to rub on the neck blood vessels, as this could cause a vagal response that can lower blood pressure, cause fainting or other serious complications.

*If any symptoms of dizziness, fainting, chest pain or other serious adverse reactions occur during the administration of a steam bath, stop immediately and follow the “hydrotherapy general guidelines”

*After 15-30 minutes, discontinue the steam bath by turning off the steam kettle and briefly pouring cold tap water over the person’s feet while helping to lift their feet out of the water one at a time.

*Assist the person to dry their feet after the cold rinse, and then put their feet into slippers or socks and shoes.  They should avoid walking on the cold floor with bare feet or it could cause blood constriction that could cause many of the circulation benefits to be lost.

*Finish by having the person take a brief cool shower to wash off sweat and close their pores, as well as constrict the blood vessels in the skin that were open in response to the heat.  This also prevents chilling or further heat loss in cool weather. If a shower facility is not available, use wash cloths dipped in cool tap water.  

*It is best to have the person rest or sleep for 30 minutes to an hour after the session is complete in order for the body to react and have a stronger immune response.

*The person taking the steam bath should drink water before, during and after the session to promote sweating and prevent low blood pressure. Some people may need to consider electrolyte replacement (sodium, potassium and what else) if profusely sweating, especially if they are prone to dizziness.

*See also “Hydrotherapy General Guidelines” for a better understanding of the effective and effective performance of whole body hydrotherapy, such as the steam bath.

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2. Dail C., Thomas C Hydrotherapy, Simple Treatments for Common Ailments. Brushton: TEACH Services; 1989.