Summer travel season is here! One of the things my family looks for when we go out on the road is a place to stay that has a pool and/or a hot tub for relaxing after a long day sightseeing or driving long distances. But you never really know how well-maintained those facilities are and are often just hoping for the best. Hot tub safety is something we should all be thinking about when traveling.
Hotel hot tubs are especially questionable, since the temperatures can be perfect environments for bacteria growth.
According to Michele Hlavsa, CDC epidemiologist. and Charles Gerba, PhD, Professor of Microbiology and Environmental Studies at the University of Arizona, you may want to stay out of that hot tub at your hotel.
What is in the hotel hot tub water?
Are you sure you want to know? There is about a tablespoon of feces in there. Also Pseudomonas aeruginosa, bacteria which cause what is called “hot tub rash.” This bacteria proliferates when disinfectant levels are too low. The biggest danger to be found in hotel hot tubs, however, is the potentially deadly Legionella bacteria which can cause Legionnaires’ Disease. The legionella bacteria are found in the water, but also in the steam, so even if you don’t go in, but sit on the side of the hotel hot tub, you could be picking up a nasty bug.
Why doesn’t the chlorine in the water kill the germs and bacteria? Isn’t that what it’s for?
If water temperatures were always correct and disinfectant levels always high enough, the dangers of hotel hot tubs would be less. Another factor, however, is the fact that we do not shower before entering the hot tub or the pool. We’ve all seen the signs, but no one knows why we should shower so we don’t often do it. But the sunscreen, sweat, bacteria, and cosmetics we bring into the hot tub make the disinfectant in the water very busy and sometimes unable to deal with the other contaminants.
What can we do to be safe in a hotel hot tub?
Do what the sign says, shower first.
Look before you leap–If the hot tub smells, tiles are not smooth, or the temperature is over 40 degrees Celsius, stay out.
Keep your mouth closed–Don’t get any hot tub water in your mouth. It’s just not clean enough for ingestion, even accidentally.
It’s very nice to find a hotel or motel has a hot tub–a great way to relax after a long day of travel. Just be careful so that your vacation isn’t ruined by a day in the bathroom or a trip to the ER.