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Doctors weigh in on potential benefits of taking a cold shower

While more research needs to be done, there seem to be a few benefits to a good cold shower.
/ Source: TODAY

Most of us like our showers warm or hot, but definitely not below room temperature. Though, could there be benefits to hopping into a cold shower?

While more research needs to be done, the short answer is “yes.” The only caveat? People with cardiovascular disease or who are at risk for heart attack or stroke should skip it.

Relief from itching

For people with itchy skin, hives or eczema, taking a cold shower could provide some much-needed relief, Dr. Tania Elliott, faculty at NYU Langone Health, told TODAY.

“From a physiological standpoint, your nerves can’t transmit multiple sensations at the same time. So if you’re itchy and you’re cold at the same time, one of those two things is going to take over. Typically the cold sensation will override the itch,” Elliott said.

While you may feel your skin tightening during a cold shower, there are no significant long-term dermatological benefits to taking cold showers, multiple doctors said.

Relaxing sensation

“There are a couple of studies, now they’re not large-scale studies, but a couple of studies show that people who have chronic pain or people with sports injuries, after they take a cold shower, they actually feel benefits,” Elliott said.

So at the very least, a slightly colder-than-normal shower can feel relaxing and can temporarily help relieve muscle tension.

“If you think about it, anytime you get injured and want to provide relief to some muscles, often the first thing you do is ice it, so there are certainly benefits of having cold exposure to your body,” Elliott explained.

Possible mental boost

While more research needs to be done, there are indications that taking a cold shower could help you feel better mentally.

“I’m not going to be recommending that over standard treatments and therapies for depression, but there are some signals of alertness, awakeness and some chemicals in the brain that are activated in the setting of being exposed to cold,” Elliot said.

It’s not so much the cold water, but the transition from hot water to cold water that offers certain benefits.

Potential risks of cold showers

People with known heart disease or a risk of heart disease should not chance the potential consequences, according to Dr. Helene Glassberg, an associate professor at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.

An abrupt submersion in cold water, whether a shower or even jumping into a cold pool, could put certain people at risk for heart complications including heart attack or stroke.

“Abrupt exposure to cold water causes your blood vessels to restrict, causes you to take a deep breath, causes your heart rate and blood pressure to potentially go up and this could potentially cause a stressor on the heart,” Glassberg told TODAY.

“I’m not sure if the health benefits are strong enough to outweigh the risks,” she said. “So for anyone with risk, I’d caution them before jumping into something like that.”

Elliott said she agreed those with cardiovascular issues or risks should avoid cold showers. But she added, “If you don’t have any underlying medical conditions, then I don’t see any harm in trying to do it.”