Laser-induced thermal effects in optically trapped microspheres and single cells have been investigated by Luminescence Thermometry. Thermal spectroscopy has revealed a non-localized temperature distribution around the trap that extends over tens of microns, in agreement with previous theoretical models. Solvent absorption has been identified as the key parameter to determine laser-induced heating, which can be reduced by establishing a continuous fluid flow of the sample. Our experimental results of thermal loading at a variety of wavelengths reveal that an optimum trapping wavelength exists for biological applications close to 820 nm. This has been corroborated by a simultaneous analysis of the spectral dependence of cellular heating and damage in human lymphocytes during optical trapping. Minimum intracellular heating, well below the cytotoxic level (43 degrees C), has been demonstrated to occur for optical trapping with 820 nm laser radiation, thus avoiding cell damage.