Public Hot Tubs: Risks Bubbling Up?

Although hot tubs are oftentimes a relaxing part of vacation, you may want to consider some possible health risks before sinking into the suds. Any activity that has you sweating will help rid the body of toxins and excess sodium, which can take strain off of the liver and kidneys (the body's true detoxifiers). And it's hard to debate the strain taken off of your muscles via the jets, which could help reduce your stress levels. That "ahhh" exhale, eyes closed, head leaned back posture of utter relaxation. But what if the hot tub isn't yours, and you aren't sure of the chlorine or bromine levels maintained in it?

legs in hot tub

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High levels of those chemicals and other bacteria that may be present in the warm waters can actually irritate the respiratory tract when breathed in. It's called "hot tub lung" by health professionals, and is caused by nontuberculous mycobacteria, commonly found in public water systems. When you inhale the steam and mist, unwelcome bacteria can be making its way to your nose and eyes, says this Time article. Because even with gargantuan levels of chlorine, bacteria and germs thrive in the hot waters; the higher the water temperature, the harder it is to rid the tub of these bacteria. But, worrying is only warranted when you're about to dip into a hot tub that is not regularly or properly maintained. The bacteria buildup can be noticeable to the naked eye: green, murky water, or maybe the water doesn't smell right. If you own a hot tub and regularly disinfect, clean and check the waters, you should be worry-free and sink in without a care.

There is also the risk of overheating if you were to use a hot tub for longer than recommended times, usually 10 to 15 minutes, because your core temperature will rise. That is why the signs next to the hot tub advise pregnant women not to use the tub, because when her core temperature rises, it could affect how much blood is circulated to the baby. This article on Health advises anyone with a heart condition to soak with caution. And the normal warnings should also be considered: the risk of drowning for young children, or slipping on the slick surfaces.


Or, the risk that you can always bet on facing head on: the cold chill that hits you when running from the warm waters to your towel.