Attenuated Risk of Pneumonia due to Inflammation by Frequent Sauna Baths: A Prospective Cohort Study

Setor K Kunutsor*, Sae Young Jae, Jari Laukkanen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review


Purpose: Inflammatory pathways are involved in the pathogenesis of pneumonia. Frequent sauna sessions may reduce the risk of respiratory tract infections including pneumonia independent of inflammation. We aimed to evaluate the independent and joint associations of high sensitivity C-reactive protein (hsCRP) and frequency of sauna bathing (FSB) with risk of pneumonia in a prospective cohort study. 
Methods: Serum hsCRP as an inflammatory marker was measured using an immunometric assay and FSB was assessed by self-reported sauna bathing habits at baseline in 2,264 men aged 42-61 years. Serum hsCRP was categorized as normal and high (≤ 3 and > 3 mg/L respectively) and FSB as low and high (defined as ≤ 1 and 2-7 sessions/week respectively). Multivariable-adjusted HRs (CIs) were calculated for incident pneumonia. 
Results: A total of 528 cases of pneumonia occurred during a median follow-up of 26.6 years. Comparing high vs normal hsCRP, the multivariable-adjusted risk for pneumonia was (HR = 1.30; 95% CI, 1.04 - 1.62). The corresponding risk was (HR = 0.79; 95% CI, 0.66 – 0.95) comparing high vs low FSB. Compared to men with normal hsCRP & low FSB, high hsCRP & low FSB was associated with an increased risk of pneumonia in multivariable analysis (HR = 1.67; 95% CI, 1.21 – 2.29), with no evidence of an association for high hsCRP & high FSB and pneumonia (HR = 0.94; 95% CI, 0.69 - 1.29). 
Conclusions: In a general middle-aged to older male Caucasian population, frequent sauna baths attenuated the increased risk of pneumonia due to inflammation.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation and Prevention
Early online date26 Mar 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 26 Mar 2021


  • COVID-19 pandemic
  • C-reactive protein
  • pneumonia
  • sauna

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