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What is Hot Tub Rash?

By Jacob Queen
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Hot tub rash is the common name given to an infection called pseudomonas folliculitis. This is a bacterial infestation that occurs in a person’s hair follicles. People tend to catch it while bathing because the bacteria can contaminate water, and it is especially common in warmer water. Hot tub rash looks like a collection of small red sores and it’s usually very itchy. Sometimes it will clear up without treatment, and in other cases, antibiotics and other more stringent measures are needed.

When hot tub rash first develops, people usually have some inflammation and itching. After a few days, small sores develop and the itching often worsens. The sores tend to be in patches, and sometimes these will spread slightly and show up in several different areas. For some people, symptoms can be more severe, and they may actually suffer a mild fever and some fatigue in the beginning.

A bacterium called pseudomonas aeruginosa is the most common cause of hot tub rash. This kind of bacteria is also found in nature, and it actually lives on the surface of human skin in many cases. This is how it gets into water that people use for bathing. Over time, a large accumulation of the bacteria can potentially form in a bathing area, and then multiple people who use the same bathing spot may become infected.

People often use additives like chlorine in their water to avoid these kinds of infections, but these chemicals do not survive as long in warmer water. This is why hot tub rash is more commonly caught in places like bathtubs and hot tubs, rather than pools or natural bodies of water. The bacterium that causes hot tub rash is able to survive higher levels of chlorine than many other bacteria types, and this generally makes it harder for people to deal with through water treatment methods.

In most cases, people don’t actually have to do anything to make hot tub rash go away. The human body is usually able to fight off the bacterium that causes the illness on its own. Sometimes people will also use certain home remedies to help hurry things along, including using vinegar compresses. If the disease lingers, doctors may choose to prescribe oral antibiotics.

According to most experts, the best way to deal with hot tub rash is to prevent it. This generally involves keeping any bathing areas as clean as possible. Chemical additives can also often be a part of the prevention, as well as basic filtration of any water that is used for a lengthy period.

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Discussion Comments
By discographer — On Mar 08, 2014

@ZipLine-- You can basically get hot tub folliculitis from any type of pool. I'm sure that it's even possible to get it from the tub at home.

I got this type of rash from a jacuzzi. My doctor said that I don't have to do anything for treatment. He said that as long as I don't go back to the bacteria filled jacuzzi, the bacteria on my skin will die on its own. I guess this bacteria needs warm moisture to survive. It doesn't like dry, cool skin.

The only time this rash is dangerous is if the bacteria enters broken skin and goes into the bloodstream causing a more severe infection.

By ddljohn — On Mar 08, 2014

@ZipLine-- I think it's possible. Is the pool fairly warm? Like the article said, chlorine does not always protect from bacteria and fungi. Are you sure that what you have is a hot tub rash though? You could compare hot tub rash pictures to your rash but you should see a doctor if you haven't yet because different types of rashes can look similar. A dermatologist will be able to identify the rash easily.

It's also possible that the rash is due to wearing wet swimwear for too long. Do you tend to hang around the pool with wet swimwear? Or do you use the same moist swimwear without washing it at home and allowing it to completely dry? The bacteria might actually be from your own skin. It might accumulate in your swimwear and return to your skin and cause a rash.

By ZipLine — On Mar 07, 2014

Can I get a hot tub rash from a regular pool?

I have a rash on my leg that seems to have appeared out of nowhere. I don't use hot tubs but I do swim several times a week. The pool is well maintained though and they use chlorine. I just can't believe how this is possible.

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