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Death in Sauna

NCJ Number
Journal of Forensic Sciences Volume: 53 Issue: 3 Dated: May 2008 Pages: 724-729
Anu Kenttamies M.D., Ph.D.; Karl Karkola M.D., Ph.D.
Date Published
May 2008
6 pages
Based on an analysis of police and forensic autopsy reports, death certificates, and toxicological results, this study examined deaths that occurred while in or near a sauna in 1990-2002 in Finland, where bathing in a sauna is common.
The study's main finding is that death in or near a sauna is rare in Finland, with fewer than 2 such deaths per 100,000 inhabitants per year. Half of the deaths were due to natural causes, mostly due to pre-existing ischemic heart disease that may have been aggravated by the sauna's hot environment, which has the effect of increasing heart rate, cardiac output, and noradrenalin secretion that leads to elevated oxygen consumption by the cardiac muscle. In addition, hemoconcentration resulting from sweating and loss of body fluids and electrolytes increases the risk of blood clotting. In deaths due to external causes in the sauna, the effect of heat and various poisonings were more common than burns or mechanical injuries. The proportion of women involved in sauna deaths has increased, along with the role of alcohol as a risk factor. The prevention and control of deaths in saunas should focus on the prevention of alcohol consumption before, during, and immediately after sauna bathing. 3 tables, 4 figures, and 22 references