Hot tubs: fun, luxurious, and even sexy, they nonetheless come with inherent risks, built in alongside their super-powered massaging jets and mood lighting.
At first, you may think, “Yeah, that’s obvious. A big pool of very hot water. You’re talking about drowning, or overheating, right?”
Something less conspicuous, though all the more insidious for it, lurks inside many hot tubs: hot tub rash, or hot tub folliculitis.
Anyone with any knowledge of biology could guess that marinating human beings in confined pools of very hot water would cause bacteria problems. However, I doubt that many would know the particular bacteria’s name that loves to haunt our hot tubs: Pseudomonas aeruginosa.
This is a type of bacteria that infects the hair follicles, (hence, hot tub folliculitis or hot tub rash) leading to a red, bumpy rash along with pus-filled blisters. It is not only uncomfortable, but potentially dangerous. And trust me, any atmosphere you’re trying to create in your lovely hot tub is ruined as soon as pus-filled blisters are involved.
Fortunately, though the picture I paint here is gruesome, simple prevention methods and common sense can easily prevent deter tiny but hugely unwelcome guests from growing in your hot tub.
How Hot Tub Rash Happens
Every type of bacteria requires certain conditions to grow, and, for Hot Tub Rash, they thrive in rarely changed, inadequately disinfected water that is full of human skin particles. Sounds gross, I know, and it is, but you’d be amazed how many people neglect the maintenance of their hot tub, and subject human beings and their innocent follicles to this scourge.
Many people think that by treating their hot tub as they would a pool – meaning, dumping some chlorine in and being done with it – they are doing enough to maintain a clean, healthy hut tub. Unfortunately, they are wrong. The relatively high temperature of hot tub water is quicker in breaking down the chemical agents (like chlorine) normally trusted to keep germs like pseudomonas aeruginosa in check. Because of this, constant, dutiful vigilance is needed in checking and adjusting the levels of chemicals in a hot tub. This is of much greater importance than with a pool.
However, most hot tub owners either aren’t aware of the situation, or underestimate the consequences of not putting in the work. While staying on top of the hot tub’s chemical levels may seem like a chore, the alternative – your hot tube becoming an incubator for bacteria – is far worse.
Hot Tub Rash Cure
#1: Topical or Systematic Antibiotics
Pseudomonas aeruginosa does not survive long on healthy, normal skin, so, for most people, hot tub rash does not require treatment, and will fade within a few days.
However, that does not mean one should ignore it. In extensive or severe cases, or ones that last more than a couple weeks, one requires treatment. Hot tub rash due to pseudomonas infection can be treated with topical or systemic antibiotics active against Gram-negative bacteria (the Gram stain is used during microscopy or cytology of a skin swab), such as:
- Gentamicin cream
- Polymyxin B spray
- Oral ciprofloxacin
When the rash is identified, the responsible pool should be properly cleaned and disinfected, with the owner making sure to use appropriate chlorination.
#2: Alternative Options
If antibiotics are not available or not a preferred option for the user, there are some alternative options. These include:
- White vinegar compresses
- Iodine rinses
- Benzoyl peroxide – commonly used for acne treatment
- Silver sulfadiazine (SILL-ver sul-fa-DYE-a-zeen) cream. Brand names include: Silvadene, Silverex, Silvazine, Flamazine, Thermazene, and SSD.
PLEASE NOTE: Do not use rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide on your skin.
If you are a fan of natural treatment, these Natural Remedies For Folliculitis may help you.
How to Apply a Vinegar Compress
- Mix 1 ounce of white vinegar with 4 ounces of lukewarm water. Take a clean cloth or paper towel, soak it in the liquid and ring it out.
- Apply the cloth to the infected area for 20 minutes at a time, two to four times daily.
- After using the compress, apply hydro cortisone cream (Cortizone 10) or oatmeal lotion.
A NOTE ON SCRATCHING:
Folliculitis can be extremely itchy. If you are tempted to scratch, we recommend using a menthol lotion or an antihistamine (Benedryl) to relieve the itching.
However, please note that if these alternatives and time do not improve the situation, medical intervention is necessary.
#3: Keeping Your Tub Clean
While talk of medical treatments is important, the best and easiest way to take care of hot tub folliculitis is consistent, thorough maintenance of the hot tub in question. Be vigilant, take care, and avoid, at all costs, hot tubs that aren’t treated with the respect that they – and you – deserve.