If you’re like most hot tub owners, you probably use your hot tub to relax and de-stress after a long day. But did you know that hot tubs can also be breeding grounds for bacteria and other germs?
In fact, Chlorine loses its ability to disinfect effectively at around 29℃, which is why some nasty bacteria, including the Legionella infection, can survive in spas and hot tubs.
Can You Get Sick From a Hot Tub?
In this blog post, we’ll delve deep and answer the question of what hot tub diseases you can get, as well as provide some tips on how to stay safe while using them. Read on to learn more!
1. Hot Tub Folliculitis
If you are soaking in a hot tub that hasn’t been appropriately disinfected, chances are you will suffer from Pseudomonas Folliculitis. Never heard of it? Check out our article on hot tub rash.
2. Hot Tub Lung
This serious condition can be contracted from poorly maintained hot tub water. It is caused by the bacteria Mycobacterium avium complex (MAC), which can be found in pools and spas and is inhaled with hot tub steam.
Symptoms can include shortness of breath, weight loss, fatigue and coughing; because of its similarities to asthma symptoms, it is often misdiagnosed. It can be treated with antibiotics, but the usual advice is to avoid hot tubs for at least a year to give your body a chance to recover.
Hot tub lung can, in rare cases, be life-threatening, so it’s crucial you have a regular maintenance routine for prevention.
The nasty bacteria that cause these two common types of gastroenteritis can be found in hot tubs and are one of the biggest public health challenges in swimming pools, water playgrounds and hot tubs with contaminated water. They both have similar symptoms, including stomach cramps, vomiting and diarrhoea; however, there is one big difference.
E.Coli won’t take hold if the chlorine disinfectant levels are correct. In fact, the bacteria will be destroyed in less than a minute, but the Crypto bacteria is impervious to Chlorine and can last for up to ten days in your spa’s warm water.
The most effective thing you can do to prevent Cryptosporidium is to keep your filtration system working effectively by cleaning and replacing the filters regularly.
Crypto and E.Coli are not usually life-threatening, although the consequences can be dire for older adults, children, pregnant women, and those with weakened immune systems.
4. Legionnaires Disease
Hot tubs have been responsible for outbreaks of Legionnaires disease, which is a lung infection caused by inhaling contaminated water droplets. This is why disease control is imperative to stop bacteria such as this. Legionella bacteria can be found in:
- Hot tubs and spas
- A heated swimming pool
- Air conditioning
- Spray from little-used garden hoses
If someone suffers from a legionella infection, they may experience flu-like symptoms, have a cough, difficulty breathing, chest pain and high fever.
This severe pneumonia-like illness needs to be treated in hospital. Although most people recover in a few weeks, in rare cases, usually when someone has a weakened immune system, it can be fatal.
How common is Legionnaires in hot tubs?
The risk of contracting Legionnaires disease is much greater at hotels, resorts and spas rather than in your own back garden, but it is definitely something you need to be aware of. The good news is
5. Urinary Tract Infections
There is a slight risk of contracting a UTI (urinary tract infection) from a hot tub. However, this increases if it isn’t well-maintained, as UTIs are caused by Pseudomonas aeruginosa, the same bacteria that causes that nasty rash.
There’s a higher risk if you keep your bathing costume on after a soak as the high temperature of the water can cause disinfectants and sanitisers to break down more quickly and a warm damp environment can encourage bacteria growth.
Hence, we always recommend removing your bathing costume and showering with soap after a session.
6. Allergic Reactions
Some people have been known to react to water treatment chemicals, particularly potassium peroxymonosulfate (PPMS), which is used in oxidation, a process to remove organic contaminants. And, of course, many people are sensitive to Chlorine which produces asthma-like symptoms.
If you notice itchy skin or become sick after using a hot tub, you should consult your GP, who will be able to provide medical advice, diagnosis and treatment if required.
How to Get Rid of Hot tub Bacteria
- Maintain the water chemistry – Use test strips before each use; ensuring your chemicals are balanced and sanitisers are working effectively is the best prevention against bacteria commonly found in hot tubs.
- Use sanitiser – Using a sanitiser such as Chlorine or Bromine will destroy the germs that could be detrimental to your health.
- Clean filters regularly – Dirty filters mean dirty water is recycled back into the hot tub, so learning how to clean a hot tub filter regularly is essential.
- Administer a shock treatment – If someone does experience rash or skin irritation, it’s crucial to shock your tub before anyone else uses it.
- Shower before and after use – The CDC recommends showering both prior to using a hot tub and afterwards to reduce risks to your health.
- Don’t use if you have open wounds – Never use a hot tub if you have an open wound or cut on your skin. As we’ve mentioned, germs and bacteria are commonly found in spas; if one enters your body this way, it can cause a nasty infection.
- Enforce some rules – It’s crucial everybody who uses spa pools knows the risks and understands how to prevent them, so it’s a good idea to place a sign nearby with some rules everyone should adhere to.
Will a hot tub make a fungal infection worse?
The heat and moisture in a hot tub provide the perfect environment for the micro-organisms that cause fungal infections to thrive, so yes, using a hot tub when you have a fungal infection will make it worse.
Can you get MRSA from a hot tub?
The MRSA bug does not survive long in the recreational water of hot tubs and pools as long as the water is treated properly, so it’s extremely unlikely that you would contract MRSA from your hot tub.
What are the risks of a hot tub infection?
The risks of getting an infection from a hot tub, are small. As long as the PH levels are kept within the optimum range for the sanitisers to work effectively, you wash the surfaces regularly with soap and add the right amount of Chlorine then disease control should be fine.
Although hot tubs can present a few health risks, most of these dangers can be eliminated by following some simple tips. Whether you have dizziness and fatigue, a headache or Pontiac fever, a lot of these can be stopped through regular cleaning and maintenance.
Most reported outbreaks are caused by three main culprits — Cryptosporidium, Pseudomonas and of course, the pneumonia caused by Legionella.
If you disinfect hot tubs correctly, clean the filters and keep on top of maintenance, germs and bacteria which cause ear infections and dermatitis just to name a couple will not have the chance to survive and grow, meaning the risk of anybody becoming sick, contracting an infection or requiring medical treatment will be minimal.
If you develop a rash in certain areas around your swimsuit, notice pus-filled blisters around your hair follicles, experience itchy skin or breathing issues in the lungs after soaking in the warm water of your Jacuzzi, contact your doctor, who can provide advice and information, diagnosis or treatment regarding illnesses.
By being aware of the risks and taking the necessary precautions, everyone can safely enjoy their hot tub experience.