Jacuzzi Hot Tubs germs
With warmer spring days and cooler nights upon us, plus summer vacations (hopefully) in the not-too-distant future, it's officially hot tub season. (Not to mention The Bachelorette starts back up again on Monday, meaning a summer full of steamy hot tub moments awaits on reality TV if not in actual real life.)
But while a soak in the hot tub may sound relaxing, is it hygienic? Does shaking in a few chemicals actually do the trick? We turned to a couple of experts - Michele Hlavsa, RN, MPH, an epidemiologist and chief of healthy swimming for the Centers for Disease Control of Prevention and Charles Gerba, Ph.D., a professor of microbiology and environmental studies at The University of Arizona - to find out.
It turns out, you can pick up some unappetizing and even dangerous bugs from a hot tub dip, both from the water itself and also from the steamy atmosphere around it. Unlike a pool, the warmer temperature of a hot tub makes it more difficult to maintain the proper disinfectant levels that kill certain germs, Hlavsa explains. One common germ is Pseudomonas aeruginosa, which can result in an infection called Pseudomonas folliculitis, or the aptly-chosen nickname, "hot tub rash."
Pseudomonas aeruginosa is commonly found in water and soil, and multiplies in the water when disinfectant levels dip. When those disinfectant levels shoot back up again, it doesn't necessarily disappear. "At that point it stays in the water and waits for the level to come down again to multiply, " Hlavsa says. "People tend to sit in hot tubs for a while, so their skin is exposed to contaminated water for a while."
The rash often follows the shape of a person's bathing suit, and is characterized by itchy spots that develop into a bumpy rash, as well as pus-filled blisters around hair follicles, according to the CDC - symptoms usually crop up within a few days of exposure.
While hot tub rash typically clears up on its own without treatment, another more serious condition to be aware of is the potentially fatal Legionnaires’ disease, a type of pneumonia caused by a germ called Legionella, which is found in water (especially warm water) and can be breathed in from the steam or mist surrounding a contaminated hot tub - people older than age 50, smokers and those with weakened immune systems are particularly susceptible. Legionella, which protects itself in the water similarly to the way Pseudomonas aeruginosa does, Hlavsa says, can also cause a milder, flu-like illness called Pontiac fever.More:
- According to the CDC's most recent outbreak report, released earlier this year, 16 outbreaks related to hot tubs and spas were reported to the CDC in 2009-2010 - 43.8 percent of them were suspected or confirmed to be caused by Pseudomonas, and 25 percent were confirmed to be caused by Legionella.
- Read this free 2 person inflatable hot tub guide before purchasing your next plug n play hot tub.
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