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Death in Sauna

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Bathing in sauna is common in Finland, where there are approximately 2 million saunas among the population of 5.2 million. In this paper, deaths occurring while in a sauna in 1990–2002 in Finland were studied by analyzing police and forensic autopsy reports, death certificates, and toxicological results. The annual rate of death occurring while in a sauna was less than 2 per 100,000 inhabitants. Close to half (51%) of the cases were determined to be natural deaths and exposure to heat was the cause of death in 25%. Overall, 50% of all cases were under the influence of alcohol. The main conclusion is that death in the sauna is a rare event even in Finland where the frequency of sauna bathing is high. The role of alcohol as a risk factor has grown. The prevention of these deaths should focus on less drinking of alcohol and avoid leaving a drunken bather alone in the sauna.

Keywords: alcohol; death; forensic science; sauna

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Senior Medical Examiner, State Provincial Office of Southern Finland, University of Helsinki, Finland. 2: Senior Medical Examiner (retired), State Provincial Office of Eastern Finland, Kuopio, Finland.

Publication date: May 1, 2008


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