More and more homeowners are getting their own personal hot tubs for different reasons. These reasons often include the health benefits of using a hot tub, as part of their home improvement plan and raising their property’s value, and so on. However, the increase in hot tub ownership has also shown a relatively slight increase in health hazards related to hot tub use like hot tub lung. But what is a hot tub lung anyway, and what do you do when you see yourself or your family exhibit various hot tub lung symptoms?
What Is Hot Tub Lung?
Simply put, hot tub lung is an infection in the lungs that is caused by the bacterium called Mycobacterium avium. Remember that hot tubs are generally warm and moist, and this provides an ideal environment for the mycobacteria to thrive.
Like most other bacteria that thrive in hot tubs, Mycobacterium avium lives in the slime or biofilm that forms inside the wet hot tub pipes. There they continue to grow and multiply, feeding and sourcing their nutrients from the biofilm inside the pipes. When you turn on the hot tub, the water current that runs through the pipes washes the bacteria away from the pipes and brings them out through the hot tub jets and into the hot tub water.
Once in the water, the bacteria become airborne as a result of the mist created by the bubbling hot tub water. And when people inhale the mist and the steam (and consequently the bacteria) it is then that they become infected with hot tub lung. It should be noted that people can only become infected by inhaling the bacteria and that the disease isn’t transmittable from person to person.
Symptoms and Misdiagnosis
People who are suffering from hot tub lung may exhibit a variety of symptoms including shortness of breath, coughing, weight loss, fatigue, low oxygen levels, and fever. Most of the time, when these patients go see their doctors they are often misdiagnosed with something else aside from hot tub lungs like asthma or bronchitis. The main reason for this misdiagnosis is because of the similarities between hot tub lung symptoms and the symptoms of other respiratory problems.
Besides, many doctors often don’t think to ask their patients if they have been using a hot tub when they come for a checkup, and this contributes to the probability of being misdiagnosed with a different disease. It is important to note this because different diseases need different treatments, and if the wrong treatment is given then chances are that the patients suffering from hot tub lung may not recover.
On that note, patients who suspect that they have hot tub lungs should tell their doctors if they regularly use a hot tub when they go see their doctors. This will help to reduce the possibility of being misdiagnosed and given the wrong treatment.
How Is Hot Tub Lung Treated?
Fortunately, hot tub lung is a treatable condition. And if the condition is diagnosed and treated early, then there will be less damage to the patient’s lungs.
In general, those who are suffering from the said disease are placed on anti-inflammatory steroids and antibiotics. With this treatment almost half of the patients had their symptoms clear up within ten months, with complete recovery happening two or several months afterward. However, in some cases, the recovery period may take even longer.
Some patients who exhibit more serious hot tub lung symptoms usually need other treatments aside from antibiotics. For instance, some patients saw their oxygen levels drop down to dangerously low levels. In such cases, the patient needs to be put on oxygen.
In any case, patients who are suffering from hot tub lung receive one particular advice from their doctors: stay away from their hot tubs.
As mentioned earlier, some symptoms of hot tub lung include fatigue and coughing. When unknowing patients get ill with hot tub lung and feel these symptoms, they usually turn on the hot tub and jump in thinking that this would help with their exhaustion and cough. However, this only makes the problem worse.
Thus, patients who are diagnosed with hot tub lungs are generally advised to drain and clean their hot tubs and then refrain from using them for up to a year or until all the infections are completely gone.
How Do You Avoid Hot Tub Lung?
To avoid getting hot tub lung, going through the treatment mentioned above and being advised to shut down your hot tub for a year, you’ll want to avoid getting the disease in the first place. This precautionary method is relatively easy, and by following these tips, you won’t have to worry about not being able to enjoy your hot tub.
- Change the water on your hot tub frequently. How often you should change your hot tub water will depend on several factors like the frequency of hot tub use, the bathing load, and others. Nonetheless, experts agree that changing your hot tub water every two months is a good idea.
- Remove and clean your hot tub filter When cleaning the filter, go over it and look for signs of wear and tear or any other sort of damage. If you see any, consider changing the filter with a new one.
- Even when you’re not using the hot tub, you’ll want to run the filters daily. This helps to circulate the water and wash away dirt and grime from the hot tub’s pipes and bring them to the filter.
- Taking a quick shower before you jump into the hot tub is also a good idea. This will help to reduce the amount of dirt, body oil, dead skin cells, shampoo, and others that get transferred from your body and hair to the hot tub water. Removing these things from your body reduces the chances that they’ll end up in the pipes, becoming biofilm which feeds the bacteria there.
- Deep clean your hot tub at least twice a year. That includes cleaning underneath the hot tub as well.
- If your hot tub is installed inside the house, make sure that it is in a well-ventilated area.
- Always check and keep your hot tub water’s pH level balanced.
- Consider using bromine instead of chlorine sanitizers in your hot tub. Due to the high temperature of the hot tub, chlorine is not as effective as bromine and the chlorine levels need to be carefully watched regularly. This is because chlorine loses much of its disinfectant power when water is warmer than 84 degrees Fahrenheit. Bromine is much more stable at higher temperatures; however, you should frequently check the chemical levels in your hot tub regardless of what sanitizing system you have.
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As can be seen above, avoiding hot tub lung is relatively easy. All that is needed is for you to practice responsible hot tub ownership which means keeping your hot tub and its water clean and sanitary all the time. If you somehow forgot about your hot tub’s upkeep and suspect that you have contracted a hot tub lung, see your physician right away. Oh, and don’t forget to mention that you have a hot tub; otherwise, you may be diagnosed with a different disease altogether.
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