Can sauna help against the Coronavirus?

Finland is sauna and sauna is Finland. It is the only Finnish word that has been incorporated into other languages (it was not, of course, going to be the longest word in the world – lentokonesuihku-turbiinimoottoriapumekaanikkoal-iupseerioppilas -, which is also Finnish).

The positive effects of the Finnish sauna (the 90-something degree Celsius sauna, not lower temperature saunas or Turkish baths) are well known: they help strengthen the immune system.

But: can it help against Coronavirus?

Sauna and Finland

The health benefits of having regular saunas are well known. They are: relaxation and elimination of toxins from the body through sweating. Regular use also strengthens the immune system. It is also a kind of “controlled natural fever“, since fever is a mechanism for the body to become more hostile to harmful viruses and bacteria.

There are three types of saunas (traditional wood-fired, smoke and electric), but the end-effect of all of them is the same, and in the end choosing between one type and another has more to do with convenience than anything else.

branches in a sauna
Vasta (or Vihta) for whipping in the sauna. Fuente (CC: by-sa)

Many Finns have a sauna at home, in a room within the bathroom, but many also go to public saunas all over the country.

I do take my sauna/two saunas a week and I wouldn’t miss them.

Does the sauna work against Coronavirus?

Let’s just get this out of the way: prevention comes always first. Taking regular saunas will help you build up the immune system, but against Coronavirus it is also recommended to limit contact with people as much as you can and to wash your hands often.

That’s where the 20-seconds-rule for washing the hand comes in, which is how long it takes to sing twice “Happy Birthday” in your head. As I find it unsophisticated, I recommend washing the hands it with the chorus of “Never Gonna Give You Up” by Rick Astley. Even out loud, what the hell.

But let’s get down to business: the new Coronavirus seems to be sensitive to high temperatures and humidity, and the sauna has plenty of that.

The Coronavirus is transmitted by saliva droplets when people cough and sneeze – and even when people talk. Not only by being next to someone but if those droplets fall on a surface, the virus can live there for several days. If you touch these surfaces and then touch your face (nose, mouth, eyes…) with your hands there is a possibility of contagion.

One of the health recommendations of the sauna has always been to never go when one is already suffering from an illness, and I have to agree with that recommendation. In other words: a sauna will not cure someone who already has the Coronavirus. The air that reaches the lungs – where the COVID-19 resides – is already colder and will not help killing the virus. Michael Osterholm, expert in contagious diseases and epidemiology, tells us more in this interview with the great Joe Rogan. He talks about sauna and Corona in around the 21st minute of the interview.

Public sauna in Helsinki
A public sauna in Helsinki. Source (CC: by-sa)

However, sauna is always beneficial as it helps eliminate toxins and strengthens the body by creating a controlled fever. But, again, don’t go if you think you might be infected, just to be safe.

And you, does it help you to have saunas during the year to improve health?



Is Finland dealing correctly with Coronavirus? Maybe not

Now that the Coronavirus has been declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO), we also look to Finland to ask: are the Finns doing well? Let’s get to it.

Facemasks. Source (CC: by)

Finnish doctors and patient treatment

We have rarely talked about the Finnish health system here in the blog, that is true.

Finland has in the last years tried to import some health professionals from other countries, as it has been chronically understaffed. We did talk in the Spanish version of this blog with a few Spanish nurses that made a new life for themselves working in Finland. If your Spanish is good enough, you can check out our interview here.

How is the country doing in this area? Well, Finland is used to be on top of most international rankings, pretty much in every regard. Unfortunately, when we look at the efficiency of Health Systems, Finland ranks 24th.

And thus, many in Finland complain about the Finnish way of doctors delivering care to you: take Ibuprofen (or Bepanthen) and go home. This may not work for this pandemic.

Finnish doctors
Coronavirus is arriving to Finland a few days later compared to other Nordic countries, but there are doubts that it will manage the crisis well.

Are people happy with how the Finnish government is handling the Coronavirus pandemic?

Finns confirm that in centers like Terveystalo (Finland’s private health care) during the first days people were not being tested and they referred them to public hospitals only. There were cases where people asked again and again to be tested for coronavirus and were denied. They were forcing these people go into quarantine. Now, of course, in exchange for 195 euros they do perform those tests.

Other problems included not isolating patients who have been in contact with people who could have it, like in this case:

Coronavirus experiences in Finland

Therefore, although Finland started having Coronavirus cases later than Sweden (Ruotsi) or Norway (Norje), if we put the contagion data for all those as starting on “day 0”, we can see that the contagion rate may be greater.

You can see in the following image that Finland followed the pattern until the sudden spike in the number of cases. The source of the image is the newspaper Helsingin Sanomat.

coronavirus cases in Finland

Luckily the Finns can be less afraid of running out of toilet paper than other nations because they have a hose next to every toilet.

If you want to keep up to date with how the Coronavirus is affecting Finland – although in the next few days we will bring you more posts on the subject – this page is updated daily with the new information.

At the moment it seems that no drastic measures are being taken and people – as we have seen in this post – don’t trust their government too much to stop the Coronavirus in Finland.

How do you see this pandemic from your perspective? What do you think should be done?



The Heavy Metal course at the University of Helsinki

It is said about Finland that it is the country that has the most Heavy Metal bands per capita in the world.

It’s a fact that I still have to check, as well as find out more about which other countries are at the top of the hypothetical ranking for a future post.

But in the meantime there is a development in this part of Finnish culture that I couldn’t stop myself from sharing with you: Heavy Metal has become a university subject in Helsinki.

Heavy Metal in Finland

The post about Heavy Metal in Finland that aroused the most interest in the blog was about priest who gave heavy metal masses in Helsinki. And it wasn’t baseless: this priest revitalized an activity – going to mass – which is increasingly seen just for people of certain age. But he was able to draw in a lot of curious people and religious people who just didn’t like to go to mass.

Heavy Metal church service in Helsinki
See the heavy band in the background. Source (CC: by-sa-nc)

We also did a while back a post on the 10 best Finnish bands, and many of them turned out to be some kind of Metal bands. This was another indicator of how important this musical genre is for Finland. Other places we can turn to to confirm that the country loves metal are the Tuska Festival (a Metal-only music festival in Finland) and the Tavastia Klubi: a Metal club that is one of the most revered in Helsinki.

The Heavy metal course at the University of Helsinki

The University of Helsinki is Finland’s most famous and the best in terms of international university rankings.

The main building of the university, in the center of Helsinki. Source (CC: by-sa).

And the university has decided to innovate in its summer courses (yes, this course has already finished, but since it is a successful one it repeats every year) and has created a 3-week course titled “Heavy Metal and Hard Rock: Mu­sic, His­tory, Society and Culture” (originally, when it was created some years ago, it went by the title of “Heavy Metal Music in Contemporary History and Society“).

This is the trailer of the course, as narrated by its teacher, the doctoral candidate Paolo Ribaldini:

The content of the classes of the Heavy Metal course

As taken from its website:

The exploration of the development of the popular music style of Heavy Metal. The primary focus will be on the musical elements of the genre, then on its historical features and its relation to contemporary Western society. A number of lectures will be devoted to Heavy Metal in Finland, where this genre is particularly successful and characterizes musical culture more than in other European or non-European countries

University of Helsinki

The course includes, including homework and final thesis, 135h of work for the student (5 ETCS credits). It costs, if I’m reading it correctly, 50€ for the students of the University of Helsinki (for students of Grade or Doctorate 940€, and for professionals 1400€).

In short, this is the summary and objectives of the course:

The students will appreciate the importance of heavy metal music in Western musical culture, its historical development and the characteristics of the subculture related to the music. This subculture is particularly strong in Finland, and Finnish HM is recognised worldwide as a key manifestation of this musical style. The students will also achieve competences in music theory, sociology of music, music semiotics and cultural studies. Furthermore, the course gives them a solid basis to critically understand popular music genres other than Heavy Metal.

University of Helsinki
A concert in Helsinki.

And how will the students get to do all this? With classes, multimedia material such as songs, films and documentaries; workshops and seminars; and group discussion. They will even go one or two times to Heavy Metal concerts in Helsinki all together, learning with the local musical scene.

Pretty cool, right? Let’s end the post with another video from Paolo Ribaldini, the course’s teacher, playing with his band.

Ribaldini is also a heavy metal musician and vocalist himself. He is a doctoral candidate and his research focuses on this musical genre, specifically on sociological, philosophical aspects, and the development of music.

After reading about it, would you attend this course on Heavy Metal? Which is your favorite band of this genre?



Letters from Santa Claus: he starts charging in Finland

Some time ago we wrote a post about how to send letters to Santa Claus and his address in the Finnish Lapland. And we commented that one of the great things about that system was that Santa himself responded to you and it was free. Unfortunately, Santa Claus has begun to charge for writing back.

Lapland: the place where Santa Claus lives

Santa Claus and Finland

As we all know, Finland is Santa’s land.

There they call it “Joulupukki”, which literally means “Christmas goat”, and comes from an ancient tradition.

The Finns are very fond of this man and in Lapland, where he lives, they make Christmas a big thing. They take it seriously.

The Santa Claus village in Lapland
Santa Claus village in Rovaniemi, Lapland. Source (CC: by-sa)

In Lapland we can see for example three Santa Claus attractions, including the best known: the Santa Claus village. In the village you can visit the Arctic Circle line, the post office, and the good guy in person, who is available to chat for a while and have a picture taken for a fistful of Euros.

Santa starts charging for writing to you.

But the photo once you were there was the only thing the nice guy charged you. Until now.

Santa Claus with kids
Santa, chatting with some small visitors. Source (CC: by-sa)

A commentator of the post on the letters warned us: from 2019 it is no longer free to receive a letter from Santa Claus, but the price will be 8.90€.

Diligently we began to find out the details, and they are as follows. As you can read on the website of Posti (the Finnish Postal service), it seems the person who tipped us off was correct. The new payment card can be ordered in any of the 13 languages you speak (English included, of course) and will be personalized, addressing the recipient (the lucky boy or girl) by name. At least, the Posti guarantees that it will arrive before Christmas – according to its website.

It is a pity for all of those who have written to him up to now. Regardless of financial status, anyone would receive a letter response from Santa Claus in their home. At least the service has not closed completely, but it is definitely a pity that it has changed in this way.

And you, did you send a letter to his address in Lapland and he replied? What do you think of this change of policy?




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