Visiting a sauna: does inhaling hot dry air reduce common cold symptoms? A randomised controlled trial

Daniel Pach, Bettina Knöchel, Rainer Lüdtke, Katja Wruck, Stefan N Willich and Claudia M Witt
Med J Aust 2010; 193 (11): 730-734.



Design, setting and participants: A randomised single-blind controlled trial with a treatment duration of 3 days and a follow-up period of 4 days was conducted at a sauna in Berlin, Germany. Between November 2007 and March 2008 and between September 2008 and April 2009, 157 patients with symptoms of the common cold were randomly assigned to an intervention group (n = 80) and a control group (n = 77).

Interventions: Participants in the intervention group inhaled hot dry air within a hot sauna, dressed in a winter coat, whereas participants in the control group inhaled dry air at room temperature within a hot sauna, also dressed in a winter coat.

Main outcome measures: Area under the curve (AUC) summarising symptom severity over time (Days 2, 3, 5 and 7), symptom severity scores for individual days, intake of medication for the common cold and general ill feeling.

Results: No significant difference between groups was observed for AUC representing symptom severity over time (intervention group mean, 31.2 [SEM, 1.8]; control group mean, 35.1 [SEM, 2.3]; group difference, 3.9 [95% CI, 9.7 to 1.9]; P = 0.19). However, significant differences between groups were found for medication use on Day 1 (P = 0.01), symptom severity score on Day 2 (P = 0.04), and participants’ ratings of the effectiveness of the therapy on Day 7 (P = 0.03).

Conclusion: Inhaling hot air while in a sauna has no significant impact on overall symptom severity of the common cold.

Trial registration: identifier NCT00552981.

  • Daniel Pach1
  • Bettina Knöchel1
  • Rainer Lüdtke2
  • Katja Wruck1
  • Stefan N Willich1
  • Claudia M Witt1

  • 1 Institute for Social Medicine, Epidemiology and Health Economics, Charité University Medical Center, Berlin, Germany.
  • 2 Karl und Veronica Carstens Foundation, Essen, Germany.



We thank Beatrice Eden and Iris Bartsch for their support with daily patient management, and Reinhard Wiesemann who developed the idea for this setting and provided the sauna cabin.

Competing interests:

The study was funded by the Karl und Veronica Carstens Foundation.

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