Fact or Myth: Do Public Hot Tubs Spread Germs?

This is a FACT.

Who doesn’t like to soak in a relaxing whirlpool with jets that massage aching limbs? But once you know the germy truth about public hot tubs, the soak takes a sour turn to the stomach churning.

hottubThe Unsanitary Truth

What happens when public hot tubs such as those found in hotels and gyms, aren’t properly regulated? Contaminated water can enter your system and breed infection in the eyes, skin, nose, lungs, and ears. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “hot tub rash” is the most common hot tub condition. If you’ve ever succumbed to red bumps, blisters, or boils after a dip in a Jacuzzi, then you’ve fallen prey to this skin infection.

Lung infections, such as “hot tub lung,” occur when you breathe in vapors from contaminated waters. Symptoms of hot tub lung include tightness of the chest, difficulty breathing, fatigue, fever, and chills.

Bacteria-filled Waters

A recent study conducted by Texas A & M University microbiologist Rita B. Moyes showed that nearly all hot tubs are home to microbial growth in some form. Ninety-five percent of tested tubes contained bacteria from feces…bacteria that could be life threatening!

Legionnaire’s disease is transmitted through water vapors contaminated by Legionella bacteria. Symptoms start as weakness and flu, and evolve into full-blown pneumonia. According to the CDC, 8,000 to 18,000 people are hospitalized with Legionnaire’s disease each year, and of those 30% die.

Study results also showed that 81% of test tubes were infected with fungi, and 34% contaminated with deadly Staphylococus bacteria.

How does a hot tub become a cesspool of germs? When the interior pipes of a Jacuzzi are not properly maintained and cleaned with chemicals, jets shoot germs into the water. The risk of contamination is significantly reduced when hot tubs are well maintained with consistent chemical cleanings.

To Soak or Not to Soak

Chlorine is effective at killing most germs, but the high temperature of hot tubs causes chlorine to evaporate faster. A sanitary hot tub requires a pH and chlorine check twice a day. While home hot tubs are easy to monitor, there is a certain degree of trust required when it comes to dipping your toes into a public hot tub.

Here are some tips to help you decide whether or not a hot tub is germ-free:

  • If you can smell the chlorine, walk away! A germ-free hot tub is also odor-free.
  • If you sink into the water and it feels at all slimy, cut your soak short. A slimy hot tub indicates the presence of bacteria.
  • If the water is cloudy, or there is a layer of foam on top, take a shower instead!

If you find a public hot tub with crystal clear water and none of the aforementioned conditions, chances are it’s safe to soak for a bit.