by Linda Merrill for Networx
Steam showers are the modern day equivalent of the steam baths of ancient Rome and the traditional Finnish saunas. Historically, wet steam baths have been used for cleansing, relaxation, detoxification and as a social activity. In Scandinavia and the Baltics, saunas and steam baths were often family activities. In fact, most cultures have a tradition of some kind of steam room, including Native American huts and Japanese mishiburo, dating to the 12th century. Warm, moist air opens the pores, increases blood pressure and stimulates the sweat glands. Hot steam relaxes muscles after a workout and opens bronchial passages in asthma sufferers. It cleans the skin of impurities through the pores and can be more beneficial and less aging than soap and water. Hot steam is even said to improve the immune system because it tricks the body into thinking it has a fever and therefore stimulates the body’s natural defenses.
Nearly anyone can partake of a steam shower, although there are some groups of people who should refrain or seek the opinion of their medical provider. Those include people with high blood pressure, diabetes, or circulatory problems. It is advised that young children and pregnant women also refrain from taking a steam. When in doubt, consult a medical professional.
Is a steam shower feasible for you?
In today’s modern bathroom, steam showers are relatively easy to install or retrofit into the space. A steam shower is, in basic terms, a small, enclosed shower space, with a steam generator where water is brought to a boil and the vapor is released into the stall. The generators are connected to the building’s plumbing and can be installed up to 25 feet away from the shower itself. The power of the generator is based on the size of the space it is servicing and should provide a temperature control to avoid burning. Modular units are available that can be retrofitted in an existing bathroom with minimal construction, replacing a standard bathtub. These units are generally fabricated from acrylic and include the steam mechanism, vapor-lock door and shower heads. Some even come with a jet tub feature as well. Acquinox and Amerec both make these types of units.
A custom steam shower is designed when the bathroom is built and is finished with stone or tile walls, floors and ceilings which should be mortar based, not drywall mounted. Doors are fully sealed to retain the steam. There are many amenities available such as rain shower showerheads and massaging jets. At the super deluxe end are “steam suites,” which can accommodate from two to ten people and include aromatherapy, jets for all body parts, media hookups for entertainment, and mood lighting.