Who knew that soaking in a hot tub to ease those aching muscles in your body could cause a skin infection? The same thing could occur in a whirlpool, a therapy pool or even water slides that kids play on. This skin infection that occurs in these scenarios is called hot tub folliculitis. Folliculitis occurs when the hair follicle becomes inflamed due to an infection, injury or irritation by chemicals. In the case of the hot tub folliculitis, prolonged exposure to water that may have been contaminated is the typical cause.
There is a specific kind of bacteria called pseudomonas aeruginosa which can survive in the warm temperatures of the water in hot tubs and pools, especially if the acidity and levels are chlorine are not closely monitored. Typically, you will see signs of hot tub folliculitis anywhere from several hours to several days of being exposed to these bacteria. The areas of your body where the water may be trapped against your skin, like a swimsuit, would be the most vulnerable.
Symptoms and Appearance of Hot Tub Folliculitis
Hot tub folliculitis first makes an appearance as a patch of bumps that are quite itchy, with some filled with pus. Eventually, these bumps will form sensitive nodules dark red in appearance. Areas where clothing made contact with the body may have a heavier rash. Some of the bumps may have a distinct texture like a spongy welt.
This telltale rash of pus filled bumps can be easily traced if you have been a regular user of hot tubs and you have used one recently within the past day or two. In addition, because hot tub folliculitis is caused by inadequate levels of acid and chlorine in your hot tub or pool, chances are that someone else who uses it will also have similar symptoms.
Most people who develop hot tub folliculitis have cases that will resolve on their own within ten days and experience discomfort, itching and some fatigue. Topical ointments are usually enough to ease the itch of this bumpy red rash. The area around the rash may stay discolored for weeks after the rash itself has cleared up which is the result of hyperpigmentation.
If the hot tub rash is a bit more serious, such as you scratching the area, then a topical antibiotic may be prescribed by the doctor. In rare cases do boils develop from hot tub folliculitis but it can happen. Therefore, it is important that you seek the advice of the doctor should, after several days of self treatment, the rash seems to be getting worse. It is also important that you do not scratch or break open the lesions that have formed so as to prevent further infection.
For the most part, there is little to no scarring once the rash and lesions clear up. However, hot tub folliculitis can and will recur if the pool or hot tub you contracted the bacteria from is not properly cleaned with the proper level of chemicals in it. You may have to drain the tub or pool and start over again.