How to adapt to hot bath temperatures, and how hot should baths really be?

Guidebook to Hakone from 1811

Onsen, Guidebook to Hakone from 1811

The onsen baths in Japan are usually between 38 degrees to 42 degrees Celsius, adults here like temperatures in the forties, with usually only one or two with temperatures around 38 to 39 for children or those with weaker constitutions. Our home bath is automatically set to run at the press of a button at forty-two degrees Celsius. These hotbaths used to be excruciatingly painful for me initially when I first settled in Japan. Onsens were not relaxing affairs at all. Eventually, I learnt a way to cope and adapt. I found that by thinking and being preoccupied in thought about something other than the bath as I plopped inside the bath fullon, My body would get used to the water temperature in something like 5 seconds. Sort of like the reverse of plunging into a cold swimming pool. More than a decade after living in Japan, I am today totally at home with a forty-two degree bath, and look forward to onsen spas as relaxing social events with my daughter or mother-in-law.


Research, however, while showing numerous benefits of hot baths, has also shown though that hotbaths can be dangerous for those with heart conditions. Well, I can testify to that. My mother-in-law found her mother-in-law dead of a heart attack in her tub with a forty-two degree bathwater. She was a few days shy of her eighty-eighth birthday.

According to this news article posted below, around thirty-five degrees is optimum for health, so I am going to bear this in mind as we age…


The good bath guide
by PAT HAGAN, Evening Standard

It’s been a long, hard day at the office and your feet are killing you.

As soon as you get home, the first thing you want to do is run yourself a soothing, hot bath.

Now, the latest research shows that baths are not only great for unwinding and soaking away the stresses of the day, they can also play an important role in boosting your immune system, help skin conditions like eczema and even alleviate serious medical disorders.

One study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, showed that diabetics who spent just half an hour in a hot tub could reduce their blood sugar levels by around 13 per cent – as the heat dilated their blood vessels, blood-flow improved and the body made better use of its insulin, the hormone that converts blood sugar into energy.

A separate Japanese study showed that 10 minutes in a warm bath improved cardiovascular health in elderly men and women, helping them to cope better in exercise tests and reducing pain.

Previous research had suggested that hot baths could be dangerous for heart disease patients, because they temporarily increase blood pressure.

Now a new book, 48 Hours to a Healthier Life, claims baths can be used as a simple-form of hydrotherapy to keep the body in mint condition and reduce the risk of illness.

‘I heartily recommend bathing,’ says the book’s author, Suzi Grant, a member of the British Association of Nutritional Therapists.

‘It can prevent colds and viruses, reduce stress, improve sleep, strengthen blood circulation, boost the immune system and detoxify the body.’

So what’s the best bath for you and how long should you spend in it? Find out with our guide below.


Warm baths – 90-95F or 32-35C – open the pores and encourage sweating, which helps to release toxins. They are good for mild detoxing and slight colds. Warm baths can also help lower blood sugar levels, relieve painful joints and muscles, and help to keep your bowels working properly.
Soak time: 10-20 minutes.


If you’re really stressed out, a cold bath can be the perfect answer – but they’re only for the very brave and those in robust health. The temperature needs to be 55-65F, or 12-18C, says Grant. ‘Cold baths are fantastic if you’re full of tension. They do the opposite of hot baths as they thin the blood and increase blood sugar levels.’
Soak time: a quick dip – between six and 30 seconds at the most.


For skin conditions such as eczema, hives or rashes, adding some baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) to your bath can make a big difference. It acts as a mild antiseptic, {3}opens the pores and relieves itching and skin irritation. Fill the bath with lukewarm water, add about a pound of baking soda and mix well.
Soak time: 10-20 minutes.


Yeast infections such as thrush can be helped by adding three or four cups of cider vinegar, preferably organic, to your bath. It’s also very good for detoxifying the body, according to Grant, as the vinegar helps to restore its acid/alkaline balance. Add to a full bath of warm water.
Soak time: 15-20 minutes.


Sprinkle 3-5lb of sea salt into the water and mix in well for a thoroughly relaxing bath. The cooler the water and the shorter the time spent in the bath, the more it acts as a tonic, says Grant.
Soak time: 10-20 minutes.

Colds and headaches

Hot foot baths can help with colds and headaches as well as refreshing tired feet. Pour enough hot water into the bath or a bowl to cover your feet and ankles and add a few drops of an essential oil such as lavender, peppermint, thyme or lemon. Finish by rinsing your feet with cold water.
Soak time: 10-20 minutes.


“A cold foot bath is absolutely brilliant if you’re insomniac or just sometimes have trouble sleeping,” says Grant. Soak your feet until they start to feel uncomfortably cold. This treatment is also useful for constipation, nose bleeds, tired feet and colds.
Soak time: as long as you can bear.


Try alternating between hot and cold foot baths if you suffer from circulatory problems or varicose veins. Start by soaking your feet for one to two minutes in hot water, followed by 30 seconds in cold. Keep alternating between the two for 15 minutes, finishing with cold water.
Soak time: 15 minutes.

48 Hours to a Healthier Life is published by Penguin, price £6.99.

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