Cold Showers Aren't Good for Everyone—Why You May Want to Skip This Trend, Doctors Say
Some people may face health risks by showering in lower temperatures.
Cold showers have become a popular wellness trend in recent years. Many people tout a long list of its potential benefits, which include seemingly everything from increased focus to reduced inflammation. But if a cold shower sounds brutal to you, then you might be relieved to hear that showering in icy cold water might not actually improve everyone's well-being. In fact, some doctors say that certain people may face unwanted health risks from taking a cold shower.
Read on to find out whether you're one of the people that health experts say should considering skipping this trend.
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Talk to your doctor before trying the cold shower trend.
Cold showers are an easily accessible form of cyrotherapy—otherwise known as cold therapy, which "uses exposure to cold temperatures to cool the body's tissues for therapeutic reasons," according to UCLA Health. This involves lowering the water temperature in your shower below 60 degrees, usually for around two to three minute at a time.
But this icy shock might not be helpful for everyone—and in fact, it could actually be harmful for some. "Cold showers can pose health concerns for certain individuals," Lalitha McSorley, the owner and lead physical therapist at Brentwood Physiotherapy Calgary, tells Best Life. McSorley says she advises people to always consult their own doctor before making "any significant changes" to their wellness routines—which includes a transition to cold showers.
"Your doctor can assess your medical history and provide personalized recommendations based on your specific needs," she explains. "They can also help determine if cold showers are safe and appropriate for you based on your individual health conditions and medical history."
Cold showers can be dangerous for people with heart problems.
Taking a cold shower can "shock your system," according to Michael Dadashi, a psychologist and CEO of the Texas-based treatment center Infinite Recovery. "The shock leads to a significant drop in blood pressure and an increase in heart rate," he explains. "This can be dangerous for individuals with underlying cardiovascular conditions such as arrhythmias or high blood pressure."
But Shirley Collins, MD, a medical doctor and contributing expert for Academia Labs LLC, says those who are suffering from low blood pressure should also stay clear of such extreme water temperature. "Since cold showers stimulate blood circulation by constricting blood vessels, this can be dangerous, as it can lead to a drastic change in blood pressure," she says. "Some blood vessels may even constrict too much beyond repair."
At the end of the day, the benefits of this wellness trend likely don't outweigh the risks if you have a history of heart disease or are concerned about your heart health in any way. "A cold shower may put added stress on the heart, and in some cases, this can lead to a heart attack," warns Cameron Rokhsar, MD, a double board-certified dermatologist and laser surgeon based in New York City.
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People with lung issues may face risks as well.
Your heart isn't the only organ you should be thinking about when considering the cold shower trend. Ahmad Nooristani, MD, a board-certified internal medicine physician and founder of the non-profit clinic SLO Noor Foundation, says that people with certain existing lung issues should also avoid making this transition. Cold showers can constrict the airways in the lungs—making them particularly dangerous for people with conditions like asthma of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), according to Nooristani.
"The cold water can cause bronchospasm or tightening of the muscles in the airways, which can lead to shortness of breath and wheezing," he explains.
You should also skip cold showers if you're already sick.
Concerns about cold showers extend beyond pre-existing health conditions, however. According to Dadashi, it is also "generally not recommended" for you to take on this wellness trend when you are already sick. "Cold water can cause the body to become colder, which can further depress your immune system and make you more susceptible to illness," he explains.
If you're already infected, Rokhsar says this negative impact to your immune system can make it harder for your body to put up a fight. "This may result in you feeling worse, and potentially prolonging the duration of your illness," he warns.