Chilling out for a few days at a spa might seen like a fantastic way to unwind and relax, but on rare occasions, it can have some unintended consequences that are far from calming. The best tip for preventing any danger is to verify you are receiving services from a licensed and certified individual, which usually attests to his or her credentials and commitment to the craft.
According to the International Spa Association, there were about 18,100 spas in the United States as of June 2008, up from around 14,600 the previous July [source: International Spa Association]. That's a lot more places for people to lay down dinero for massages, facials, manicures, pedicures, wraps, fitness classes, wellness classes and a whole host of other services -- some of them downright wacky-sounding.
So how can these seemingly innocent diversions cause risks for devoted spa-goers? Read on to find out about some of the dangers that could be lurking in a steam room near you.
It might not qualify as a serious danger per se, but rough handling can quickly sour any spa experience. People visit spas to relax, not because they have a hankering to be used as a human punching bag. If a massage is too vigorous for your liking, just ask the massage therapist to take it easy. And while some people like to chat while they're getting spa services, others prefer relaxing in silence. That's why it can be important to find a professional who's willing to be flexible and do the things that will help you get the most out of your session -- especially if it's pricey.
Pushy practitioners can also make spa visitors feel pressured to shell out lots of cash for various products after a treatment. Following an hour of gentle relaxation, this sort of doggedness can be most unwelcome; do a little research and ask around to make sure you won't find yourself right back to stressed-out after what was supposed to be a relaxing day at the spa.
Oils, lotions and powders can all help enhance a spa procedure, but occasionally, clients can find allergies or sensitive skin problems disturbing their treatment. It's important to let spa practitioners know about any issues you have, as well as any other outstanding health conditions. Chances are good they can work around the problem, maybe by choosing a replacement product or altering their techniques to fit your personal needs.
Don't forget food allergies either. Lots of spa treatments involve all sorts of delicious eats. You might find yourself being slathered with anything from chocolate to olive oil, honey to rice bran, and lots more. So if you're worried, say, a caviar facial will trigger your fish allergy or a rubdown with sweet almond oil will do the same to your nut allergy, it pays to ask. Spa personnel can advise you of an alternative if necessary, or perhaps test it out on a discrete patch of skin before using it more extensively.
The main danger pregnant women have to watch out for is heat. Anything with the potential to raise their body temperatures above safe levels -- including saunas, steam rooms, hot tubs and other heat-related treatments -- are all off limits.
There are still lots of services pregnant women can enjoy at a good spa, however. Massages are a great example, although moms-to-be will want to make sure the masseuse treats them properly -- some massage therapists specialize in prenatal massages and it's important to work with these professionals. Massages are often not recommended during the first trimester, although well-trained prenatal massage practitioners can manage it under most conditions. It's a good idea to ask your doctor's opinion on the matter as well.
Hair bleaches and removal creams, aromatherapy and detox scrubs are usually considered a bad idea, but gentle facials, simple manicures and pedicures (without the accompanying rub if the person isn't trained in reflexology) and warm baths are all good ways to pamper pregnant women. Just make sure nothing contains any harsh products or chemicals. The best advice is to find someone with the proper training and follow his or her instructions.
Asthmatics, along with people who have colds or other respiratory issues, need to think twice before popping into the sauna. Since all that dry heat can make breathing difficult, steam rooms are often a much better option.
People with medical conditions like heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes also need to be careful when they visit a spa. Some activities, such as those that use heat like steam rooms, saunas and hot tubs, can be dangerous and could make them ill. It's always smart to disclose any medical conditions so spa workers can determine what's safe and what's not.
Diabetics need to be especially cautious about getting a pedicure -- foot infections can have serious consequences for people with diabetes, bringing us to the last spa peril on the next page.
Infection is a real risk in the spa industry. While many spas run a nice clean shop and take proper safety precautions, unfortunately not all spas live up to those standards. Plus, even in the most shipshape spas, conditions are perfect for bacteria and fungi to flourish -- it requires constant vigilance to keep things clean. While at a spa, keep a constant eye out for signs of a dedicated attention to cleanliness, and it's also good to see certifications and credentials hanging up for display.
When it comes to spa pools, hot, oxygenated water that person after person plunks into is exactly what many microbial bad guys need to thrive and spread. Luckily, there are steps that decrease the potential for an outbreak. Spa pools should be filtered, disinfected and drained on a regular basis. Visitors shouldn't overdo their time in the water or swallow any of it, and they should also take care to wash off directly before and after.
It's pretty similar when it comes to foot-soaking basins. Feet should be free of cuts and other surface damage, then after each client is serviced the basins need to be emptied, washed, disinfected, rinsed and drained. A thorough cleaning needs to be done nightly as well, and everything given the chance to air dry. Regular spa-goers can also opt to acquire their own equipment so they never have to share.
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- "Allergic or Adverse Reactions to Beauty Treatments." Beauty Treatment Expert. (9/9/2009) http://www.beautytreatmentexpert.co.uk/adverse-allergic-reaction-beauty-treatment.html
- American Massage Therapy Consumer Guide. (9/9/2009) http://www.amtamassage.org/consumers.html
- "Are hot tubs, saunas and steam rooms safe during pregnancy?" March of Dimes. January 2007. (9/8/2009) http://www.marchofdimes.com/pnhec/24548.asp
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- "What about spa treatments-hot wax, wraps, mud baths, facials, etc.-during pregnancy?" March of Dimes. January 2007. (9/8/2009) http://www.marchofdimes.com/pnhec/24043_24549.asp