Inflammatory pathways are involved in the pathogenesis of pneumonia. Frequent sauna sessions may reduce the risk of respiratory tract infections including pneumonia independent of inflammation. We aimed to evaluate the independent and joint associations of high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hsCRP) and frequency of sauna bathing (FSB) with risk of pneumonia in a prospective cohort study.
Serum hsCRP as an inflammatory marker was measured using an immunometric assay and FSB was assessed by self-reported sauna bathing habits at baseline in 2264 men aged 42-61 yr. Serum hsCRP was categorized as normal and high (≤3 and >3 mg/L, respectively) and FSB as low and high (defined as ≤1 and 2-7 sessions/wk, respectively). Multivariable-adjusted HRs (CIs) were calculated for incident pneumonia.
A total of 528 cases of pneumonia occurred during a median follow-up of 26.6 yr. Comparing high versus normal hsCRP, the multivariable-adjusted risk for pneumonia was HR = 1.30 (95% CI, 1.04-1.62). The corresponding risk was HR = 0.79 (95% CI, 0.66-0.95) comparing high versus low FSB. Compared with men with normal hsCRP and low FSB, high hsCRP and low FSB was associated with an increased risk of pneumonia in multivariable analysis (HR = 1.67: 95% CI, 1.21-2.29), with no evidence of an association for high hsCRP and high FSB and pneumonia (HR = 0.94: 95% CI, 0.69-1.29).
In a general middle-aged to older male Caucasian population, frequent sauna baths attenuated the increased risk of pneumonia due to inflammation.