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This week we respond to questions about saunas and last year’s sunscreen.

Dear HOUSE Calls,    

I love to go to hot springs and saunas.  Is there any health benefit?

That sounds nice right about now.  Many people enjoy a sauna.

In so much as health is about how you feel and enjoying a sauna makes you feel better, than I guess it is good for your health. This may be because you almost have to relax in a hot tub (hard to check emails or answer the phone). We also know that hot tubs can help with some forms of chronic pain like arthritis and fibromyalgia. If you are asking about the widely reported healing benefits of hot springs and mineral springs, we know of no research to support those claims—but if it feels good, there is not much downside.

There are some risks associated with hot tubs, and those should be heeded. Take care not to get dehydrated, and follow suggested time limits (usually 10 minutes). Also avoid alcohol in the hot tub. It can impair judgment and contribute to dehydration. Enjoy a good soak.

Dear HOUSE Calls,

Can I use last year’s sun screen?

We don’t know of much research on this.

The manufacturer will recommend that you buy a new tube if it has been on the shelf for awhile (>1 year).  They also recommend storing it at room temperature (i.e. not in the pool bag in the car―good luck with that). We imagine that age and repeated heating can lead to slow degradation.  However, we use old sunscreen all the time for ourselves and our families and find that we don’t burn any easier.

We would rather you use old sunscreen than no sunscreen.  And remember to apply generously.

HOUSE Calls is a weekly column by Dr. Adam Zolotor, Dr. Adam Goldstein, and Dr. Cristy Page on behalf of YOUR HEALTH and the UNC Department of Family Medicine.

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