what diseases can you get from a hot tub?
Hot tubs, if not properly disinfected, can harbor microorganisms that can cause skin and other infections.

Hot tubs are generally thought to be relaxing and pain-relieving. Many sports medicine professionals recommend that athletes soak in a hot tub after working out to relieve aching muscles. Others simply enjoy the soothing effects of the warm water and water jets. 

However, some harmful microorganisms can lurk beneath the surface. Hot tubs, if not properly disinfected, can harbor microorganisms that can cause skin and other infections

Hot tubs are generally safe if the following conditions are met:

  • The tubs are smooth and clean
  • The water in it is clean and clear
  • There is no overpowering odor
  • If you detect strong chlorine or other chemical odors, this indicates that the hot tub is not being sanitized properly (or overly sanitized which can be just as bad)

However, luxuries, such as a hot tub spa, pose health risks. Hot tub-related injuries are on the rise because many are unaware of their dangers. Before soaking in a hot tub, you should be aware of your and your family members' health conditions.

Some of the potential side effects of using a hot tub with very hot water for an extended period include:

10 common negative side effects of hot tubs

The 10 common negative side effects of hot tubs include:

  1. Hot tub rash
    • An infection caused by the bacteria Pseudomonas aeruginosa.
    • It causes a red rash and pus-filled, itchy, bumpy blisters, which appear and disappear within a few days.
    • If it remains there for an extended period, you should consult a doctor.
    • Do not soak in a hot tub for an extended period. After using a hot tub spa, take a shower and thoroughly clean yourself.
  2. Legionnaires’ disease
    • Legionella is a germ that causes the disease. Steam from contaminated hot tub water transports germs that cause severe pneumonia.
    • Symptoms, such as headache, fever, chills, and muscle pain, appear within a day or so of soaking.
    • People older than 50 years are more vulnerable to the disease, particularly those who smoke and have lung problems.
  3. Irritation from bodily fluids
    • Chloramine is formed when urine, feces, and sweat react with chlorine, causing skin irritation. This can be severe in people with sensitive skin.
  4. Scalding and burns
    • Water-related thermal burns are more common than fire-related thermal burns. Keep in mind that the water temperature should never exceed 104°F. 
    • Experts advise that an average adult should not spend more than 15 minutes in a hot tub to avoid injury.
  5. Illness from parasites
  6. Shigellosis and E coli
    • These bacteria are common and can be easily spread by contaminated hot tub water.
    • Symptoms may include fever, diarrhea, and stomach pain.
    • When you ingest contaminated water, the bacteria enter your stomach. To avoid these bacteria, you should change your hot tub water regularly.
  7. Hot tubs and blood pressure
    • Patients who take beta-blockers to control their blood pressure should exercise caution when using hot tubs.
    • When you soak in a hot tub, the blood vessels beneath your skin dilate or expand, causing a drop in blood pressure.
    • You must enter and exit the hot tub slowly. As a result, it will lessen the impact of blood pressure fluctuations and give your body time to adjust to the temperature change.
  8. Headache, dehydration, and vomiting
    • Some people get headaches, vomiting, and dehydration after using a hot tub.
    • The heat and the temperature difference between the outside air and the hot tub water is the cause.
    • It is recommended that you keep the hot tub temperature low, stay in the shade and drink plenty of water.
  9. Hot tubs and elderly
    • Hot tubs are dangerous to the elderly health because they can breed infection-causing bacteria.
    • They are dangerous for seniors who have high (or low) blood pressure, diabetes, or heart problems.
    • Hot tubs should be avoided by elderly people who have chronic lung problems or who take certain medications.
  10. Hot tubs and pregnancy
    • Pregnant women should avoid using a hot tub during their first trimester
    • Pregnant women should consult their doctors first.

Accidental injuries, such as lacerations and drowning in hot tubs, can be fatal, so use caution when using hot tubs.

Along with accidental injuries, hot tub spas pose some other frightening health risks. Temperatures in hot tubs are typically 104°F or less, which is not hot enough to kill microorganisms that thrive in warm water.

Most of these organisms will be rendered inactive if the proper level of disinfection is maintained.

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What are the possible benefits of a hot tub?

It is perfectly acceptable to use a hot tub every day. Many of the advantages of a hot tub are only apparent when it is used regularly.

Some of the most common health benefits of a hot tub are:

  • Stress reduction (one of the most obvious advantages of a hot tub is its ability to help relieve daily stress)
  • Muscle relaxation
  • Improved sleep
  • Pain relief
  • Better cardiovascular health
  • Improved insulin sensitivity
  • Calorie burn

Those who want to use their hot tub for therapeutic purposes, such as pain relief, increased mobility, or creating better sleep patterns, should do so daily.

By developing a routine that gets you into the hot tub daily, your body will start to feel the benefits. However, keeping your hot tub clean and the water fresh is an important aspect of owning a hot tub.

How are hot tubs maintained?

Hot tubs are maintained according to public or private purposes.

  • Maintenance professionals are supposed to check on public hot tubs regularly to ensure proper recirculation, filter cleanliness, and scrubbed surfaces.
  • Water should be drained at least two times a day and possibly even hourly if many people use it.
  • Hot tubs that have been properly maintained contain the recommended amount of disinfectant (also called sanitizer). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends free chlorine levels of 2 to 4 and bromine levels of 4 to 6 parts per million and pH levels of 7.2 to 7.8 for recreational hot tubs.
  • Higher numbers may indicate an excess of residual chemicals that can irritate the skin and throat.
  • Private hot tubs are frequently neglected, CDC recommends homeowners to follow the manufacturer's guidelines or hire a maintenance company.

As with any recreational product, proper installation, use, and maintenance ensure the safety of those participating in hydrotherapy.

Certain circumstances, such as pregnancy and having children around, necessitate limitations. There are additional considerations if you use a public spa rather than a private hot tub. As long as recommended precautions are taken, safety risks can be reduced.

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Medically Reviewed on 12/22/2021
References
Image Source: iStock Images

Watson S. Hot Tubs: How Safe Are They? WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/hot-tubs-safety

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Operating Public Hot Tubs/Spas. https://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/swimming/aquatics-professionals/operating-public-hot-tubs.html

Kassraie A. 4 Reasons to Think Twice Before Getting Into a Hot Tub. AARP. https://www.aarp.org/health/conditions-treatments/info-2021/hot-tubs.html