Do you enjoy taking a long soak in the hot tub after a tough workout at the gym? The warm water may ease the discomfort of your overworked muscles, but a hot tub soak may not be so blissful after all. Hot tubs have a variety of health risks that few people think about. Before submerging your body in the hot chlorinated water of a hot tub for a long soak, consider these potential problems.
Hot Tubs Can Be a Source of Infection
Hot tubs are chlorinated, but not all hot tubs are well-maintained. In addition, chlorine loses some of its antibacterial effect at high temperatures. The warm, wet environment of a hot tub offers the perfect breeding ground for unfriendly bacteria that cause infection. One of the most common infections that can come from a hot tub soak is pseudomonas folliculitis. Pseudomonas folliculitis is a skin condition caused by pseudomonas, a bacteria that thrives in the steamy environment of a hot tub. Pseudomonas folliculitis causes intense itchy and ugly, red bumps in areas where the bacteria invades.
Your skin isn’t the only area of your body in danger of infection. Bacteria can breed in the pipes and become aerosolized when the hot tub is turned on. If you inhale the aerosolized bacterial droplets, it can trigger to a lung infection. In rare cases, the bacteria that cause Legionnaires’ disease can hang out in the pipes of hot tubs and cause a serious form of pneumonia. If you’re in close contact with other people in the tub, you can also get an infection from them.
Other Dangers of Hot Tubs
Stepping out of a hot tub too quickly can cause sudden drops in blood pressure that can lead to lightheadedness or fainting. This can be especially problematic for people who have heart disease and those taking certain medications, especially heart and blood pressure medications. There are even cases of death due to heat stroke from soaking too long in the steamy waters of a hot tub.
At the high temperatures of a hot tub, some of the chlorine in the tub can turn to gas, and chlorine gas is a known to be toxic and a carcinogen. Still, you need the chlorine to kill the slimy bacteria and fungi that can complicate your life. On the other hand, you don’t want to breathe too much chlorine gas. It’s a double-edged sword.
Alcohol and hot tubs don’t mix either. Almost every day in this country someone drowns in a hot tub or bathtub, and the culprit usually turns out to be alcohol. When you kick back with a drink to soak up the heat, blood vessels in the brain dilate. This can cause your blood pressure to drop and lead to fainting. If you’re a little inebriated, you may not be able to recover quickly enough and end up drowning. According to an article published on seattlepi.com, a disproportionate number of hot tub drownings occur in the Western states where people drink alcohol in hot tubs.
The Bottom Line?
Hot tubs have their benefits. They can relieve the soreness of tired, achy muscles and help you relax. But they do have risks. If you soak in a hot tub, do it in a tub that’s well-maintained and limit the amount of time you spend there. Don’t do it if you have high blood pressure or heart disease and ask your doctor if you’re on medications that could make soaking in a hot tub more dangerous. Lastly, don’t drink when you’re in a hot tub.