A long soak in a hot tub feels good on achy muscles, but did you know that an improperly maintained hot tub can be a breeding ground for disease? Bacteria, fungi and viruses all thrive in warm, moist environments. Improper levels of disinfectants such as chlorine or bromine, as well as unsafe pH levels, increase the risk of disease transmission.
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Direct Skin Contact
Simple skin contact with contaminated hot tub water can lead to infection. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), Hot Tub Rash, Swimmer's Itch and Athlete's Foot can all be contracted through exposure to contaminated hot-tub water or hot-tub surfaces. Other parts of your body, such as your eyes and ears, can also be infected with diseases such as Swimmer's Ear and conjunctivitis.
Inhalation of Water Mist
Hot-tub jets are responsible for aerosolizing water droplets that could contain harmful bacteria. You can inhale these bacteria into your lungs, where they can cause a condition commonly referred to as "hot-tub lung." This condition can be caused by many different types of bacteria and causes symptoms similar to that of the cold or flu---coughing, shortness of breath, fever, chills and body aches. The exact diagnosis can be confirmed through sputum samples, chest X-rays or CAT scans. Treatment typically involves antibiotics, but in severe cases, surgery can be required. Legionnaires' disease is an example of a lung infection transmitted through hot tubs.
Ingestion of Water
Drinking water from a hot tub is never a good idea, but it is not uncommon for water to splash into your face and get in your mouth. According to the CDC, most people have about 0.14 grams of fecal material on their bottoms, which can contaminate recreational water. The problem is compounded if someone who is sick and has diarrhoea enters the hot tub, because their fecal material can contain millions of germs. Disease-causing germs do not have to be swallowed in large amounts in order to cause illness.
Do not enter a hot tub if you have diarrhoea. Shower with soap before entering the water. Avoid getting the water in your mouth. This will maximise your chances of enjoying the relaxing benefits of a hot tub while remaining safe from transmissible diseases.
Recognise a Problem Hot Tub
In order to decide if a hot tub is safe to enter, make some careful observations. The hot tub should have very little odour. A properly chlorinated hot tub will not smell strongly of chemicals. The sides of the spa should be smooth, not sticky or slippery. You should be able to hear the sounds of the pumps and filtration systems. Also, the temperature of the hot tub should be no higher than 40 degrees Celsius, or you could get heat-related illnesses. If any of these observations are questionable, consult with the spa owner or staff members.
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