Hot Tub Safety Precautions for Seniors

This guest post is from Theresa Silvaa fitness instructor and mother of three boys who blogs in her spare time (which isn’t much).

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Hot tubs, spas and public baths hark back to the famous baths of ancient Rome, which promoted cleansing, relaxing, socializing, health and exercise. Hot tubs are an enjoyable way to relax, ease sore muscles and joints, or just unwind after a stressful day. They are also something of a status symbol, imparting an air of luxury. Hot tubs can pose some health risks, especially to seniors. Seniors can enjoy a soak in a hot tub as much as the next person by keeping some important safety and health considerations in mind.

Hot Tub Bugs

The water in hot tubs can look inviting, but under a microscope, you may see some nasty bugs posing serious health risks. Dangerous bacteria grow in warm water not properly chlorinated. Always make sure the hot tub water is properly maintained using a hot tub chemical kit to avoid the following:

Pseudomonas bacteria – This bacteria causes folliculitis, called hot tub folliculitis or hot tub rash, an infection of the hair follicles causing a bumpy red rash, hair loss and scars.

Mycobacterium – Mycobacterium avium is called hot tub lung because it’s related to the bacteria that causes tuberculosis. It causes cough, fever, chills, fatigue and tightness in the chest. It’s contracted by exposure to infected water and can be fatal.

Legionnaire’s Disease – Legionnaire’s Disease is contracted the same way as hot tub lung, by breathing steam or moist air infected with Legionella bacteria.

Vaso Dilation

Although the heat and soothing movement of the water is a hot tub’s main attraction, heat can pose a health risk in seniors and others with high or low blood pressure, heart problems or breathing difficulties. Immersion in the higher temperatures of the water in hot tubs causes blood vessels to expand, called vasodilation or vascular dilation, causing fluctuations in blood pressure. High temperatures can cause drowsiness, dehydration and swelling of lymph nodes in those with lymphedema.

Risk of Drowning

Hot tubs are hubs for socializing, and some people may enjoy a drink while soaking with friends. The Consumer Product Safety Commission cautions against drinking in hot tubs, as the warm temperatures and alcohol intake can cause drowsiness that greatly increases the risk of drowning. Never go in the hot tub alone while drinking. The CPSC also cautions that extremely hot water in the hot tub poses a risk of fatality from heat stroke even in healthy people, but especially in older people with fragile health or on medications to control medical conditions.

CPSC and Lymphedema Forum Hot Tub Safety Tips

  • Don’t soak in water hotter than 102-104 degrees. 100 degrees is safest.
  • Check the water with an accurate thermometer before getting into a hot tub.
  • Check with your doctor before using a hot tub if you have heart disease, lymphedema, circulatory problems, diabetes or blood pressure problems.
  • Do not use hot tubs while drinking or taking medications such as tranquilizers, anti-histamines or anti-coagulants.
  • Do not get in a hot tub alone — always go with at least one other person.
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