We've tackled a lot of germy topics here on Vitamin G: the germiest jobs, the germiest foods, the ickies chillin' on the lemon wedge in your drink and most recently the germiest places at the gym. Now, we take on public hot tubs--like the ones at hotels, gyms, or the one you're about to dive into at your friend's pool party. Read this before sticking your toe in...
I've always been suspicious of public hot tubs (or Jacuzzis, Whirlpools--or whatever you call them in your area of the country/world). But after Yahoo Shine picked up one of my Vitamin G posts about the germiest places at the gym, some readers chimed in about public hot tubs. And, this comment from Yahoo user "Habanero" really made me shudder:
"Having owned health clubs I can tell you the most disgusting place in a gym is the whirlpool ... "We would drain the whirlpool often to clean it. Tampons, rubbers, panty liners, band aids, fake nails, toe nails, mice etc. I would often wonder why people would 'bathe' with perfect strangers."
Um, this commenter had me at tampons. [Insert image of me shuddering.] OK, so this is all unsubstantiated, so I decided to do some digging around, and what I found wasn't exactly reassuring. Some facts about public hot-tubbing (better put your sandwich down before proceeding):
It's like taking a bath--with a stranger: "When you are in the water you are bathing with everyone else in the pool, waterpark, hot tub, spa, lake, river, or ocean," say the experts at the Medical College of Wisconsin. "Germs in contaminated water can enter your system if you accidentally swallow the water, and can cause infection in your eyes, nose, ears, as well as in cuts and scrapes."
Chlorine doesn't always kill off all harmful germs. "Chlorine does a good job of killing most germs, but it does not sterilize the water," they continue. "A few germs can survive normal pool, hot tub, and spa levels of chlorine for several hours to days. Chlorine must be maintained at proper levels to kill most germs. The high water temperature of hot tubs and spas may cause chlorine to evaporate faster. As a result, chlorine levels in hot tubs and spas need to be checked more regularly than in swimming pools. Remember: even if you can smell the chlorine odor the water is not germ free. Skin infections are the most common infections spread through hot tubs and spas." According to the CDC, "hot tub rash" is a common side effect of hanging out in a dirty hot tub.
If you're ever at a frat party, steer clear of the hot tub: I found a fascinating post over at the Medical Informatics Insider blog. Heather Craven recalls her hot-tubbin' frat party days and writes, "In a recent study by Dr. Rita B. Moyes, a microbiologist at Texas A & M University, nearly all hot tubs house some type of microbial growth. In 95 percent of the tested tubs, bacteria derived from feces were present, while 81 per cent had fungi and 34 per cent contained potentially deadly staphylococcus bacteria. ... The problems arise when the interior pipes of the spas are not properly maintained or chemically cleaned, and when the jets are operating germs are spewed out into the water. If tubs are routinely cleaned with the correct combination of chemicals, the likelihood for germ growth diminishes. But if I were to ever again be invited to a fraternity party, I would still avoid the hot tubs."
A tad disturbing, huh? I'd like to tell you that I'm not going to let this news spoil my fun and that I'm still going to chill out in the Jacuzzi at the gym. But I'll be honest: my hot tub days have long been over (that is, unless I'm soaking in my own personal bathtub--with jets!). But you decide for yourself!
What's your take on all of this? Do you use public hot tubs? Ever gotten a rash from one--or something worse?
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