Diseases From Hot Tubs

Updated July 19, 2017

A dip in the hot tub relaxes and calms a body. However, a small microscopic organism hiding in the bubbling water may turn a relaxing soak into a dangerous activity if the hot tub owner neglects his or her responsibilities. Diligent hot tub owners monitor their tub's chlorine and pH levels, drain the water and clean the tub regularly. Stagnant, warm water provides the greatest risk of illness from recreational water use. Viruses, fungi and bacteria grow in hot tubs. They thrive if safety measures are ignored.


Symptoms of folliculitus, commonly called "hot tub rash," include itchy red bumps, which could be filled with pus. The symptoms occur within days of soaking in a hot tub. Contracting the ailment occurs through skin contact. The bacterium Pseudomonas aeruginosa causes the condition, which usually clears up within days without treatment. Hot tub owners avoid folliculitus contamination by properly maintaining their tubs.

Legionnaires Disease

Legionella, a bacterium, causes Legionnaires disease. Contraction occurs when water hot tub participants breathe in the water vapour or steam that contains legionella. This condition shows itself with pneumonia-like symptoms, which can become life threatening. A list of early symptoms includes body pain, headache, fever and cough. Most cases clear up with a round of antibiotics. Contamination prevention of this disease requires regular disinfecting and water replacement.


Cryptosporidium, a parasite found in human and animal faeces, causes the intestinal infection called cryptosporidiosis. People contract the parasite through swallowing infected water. It is treated with an anti-diarrhoea medication. Proper disinfecting of the hot tub does not deter cryptosporidium; it can live for days in chlorinated water. Hot tub owners need to enforce proper hygiene such as showering before using the tub, and not allowing sick people, animals or babies in diapers in their hot tubs.

Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis

The culprit for hypersensitivity pneumonitis, or "hot tub lung," is called mycobacterium avium, which are fragments of bacteria. Hot tub lung is an inflammation of the lungs. People breath in the fragments of bacteria through the water vapour or steam from the hot tub. Symptoms include coughing, fatigue, trouble breathing and loss of appetite. The condition is rare and is linked to indoor hot tubs. As with the prevention of many hot tub diseases diligence in cleaning and maintaining the tub, as well as ventilation, are essential to avoid mycobacterium avium contamination.

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About the Author

Roel A. Garcia is originally from SouthTexas, but now resides in West Michigan. He has written for "The Alice Echo News Journal" in Alice, Texas and for "The Holland Sentinel" in Holland, Michigan. He has been hired as an adjunct professor at a community college in Western Michigan. He earned a master of arts degree in English from Texas A & M University--Kingsville.