Hot Tub Folliculitis: Pools aren’t fun when they leave you infected

hot tub folliculitis
Shower right after your soak session to avoid bacterial infection

Spring Break is right around the corner. For many, that means one last ski trip before the season ends. Plenty others will head to indoor water parks, beach destinations and resorts. Enjoying pools and hot tubs is part of what makes vacations relaxing. But to make sure your soak session does not end in an itchy pool rash called hot tub folliculitis, read on…

 What is Hot Tub Folliculitis?

The term refers to the condition called Pseudomonas aeruginosa folliculitis. Doesn’t sound pleasant, does it? Essentially, bacteria from hot tubs, pools, water parks—even contaminated lakes—enters hair follicles and causes inflammation and infection. The resulting rash typically resembles chicken pox in early stages, then advances to look more like pimples. It can be very itchy and painful. And, it can unfortunately spread once acquired. It is commonly found on the torso under areas covered by swimsuits. But it can also occur on any part of the body where bacteria have been allowed to thrive.

 Why Chlorine is Not Enough to Prevent Hot Tub Infection

swimming pool folliculitis
Crowded, warm pools during peak seasons can increase infection risk

We all rely on chlorine and/or bromine to keep water clean in pools and spas. And for the most part, those chemicals do their job. But Pseudomonas aeruginosa can survive even in chemicals. This is particularly true if the water is warm. Or if it has not been treated frequently enough or a large number of people  are using the space.

Children and People with Compromised Skin Are More at Risk

Children are typically more susceptible to Pseudomonas aeruginosa folliculitis because they tend to spend more time in water than adults. Anyone with compromised skin is also at an increased risk. Skin can be compromised due to the presence of acne or dermatitis, or because of recent hair removal. Individuals with HIV, leukemia, diabetes or other conditions that weaken the immune system are also more susceptible to hot tub folliculitis than the average population.

Hot Tub Folliculitis Can Last Days—or Years

The telltale bumps usually occur on skin within 72 hours of exposure. If left alone and not scratched, they may resolve on their own in as little as a week. Scratching can worsen outcomes and increase healing time. It is generally recommended to see a doctor if the rash is spreading, has not lessened in 7-10 days or pus is increasing. Antibiotics may be prescribed, as in some instances, the legions can become severely infected. Rare cases do not easily resolve with antibiotics. In these cases, it is very difficult to completely eradicate the rash. I have met individuals that have struggled with the condition in excess of 10 years! Although the rash is not contagious via skin-to-skin contact, it spreads readily on affected individuals. When one area is under control, another area may become infected.

Hot Tub Folliculitis: Prevention Tips

Vacation isn’t vacation without a dip in the pool or spa. And for many kids, swimming is the highlight of the trip. So here are our top 5 tips to avoid bringing home an icky pool rash as a souvenir:

  1. Ask pool/spa personnel if the chlorine and pH levels of water are tested daily, and more frequently if more people are in the water during peak seasons.
  2. If any breaks in the skin are present, consider abstaining from swimming until skin is healed. Also consider scheduling hair removal a week prior to your trip to allow irritation to fade.
  3. Don’t stay in wet bathing suits after swimming. Swimsuits should be removed and washed to reduce bacteria.
  4. Shower as soon as possible after swimming. CLn BodyWash and CLn SportWash are designed for skin prone to infection. They are tough on microbes but gentle on skin. The mild formulas can be used daily on children 6+ months and are also suitable for adults. Watch dermatologist Dr. Herron describe how he uses CLn for his folliculitis patients.
  5. Pay attention to your instincts. If biofilm (scum) is present in hot tubs, it is a good indicator that the water is not clean enough. Likewise, if pools are very crowded and warm, know that bacteria counts are likely elevated. Request that water be tested again. And don’t be shy about asking follow up questions. If you have any doubts about the cleanliness of the water, consider another activity.

These tips should help ensure that your skin stays rash-free on vacation. And just in time for Spring Break, we’ve just launched a new On-The-Go 3.0 oz Body Wash. It is perfect for your travel bag. Also, check out this post for tips on how CLn can help with hair removal prep, mani/pedi hygiene, bug bites and more!

Disclaimer: The contents of this website are for informational purposes only and do not constitute medical advice. The information, graphics, and images on this website are not intended to substitute diagnosis and/or treatment by a medical professional. These products have been clinically tested and proven to be safe for intended use. Always seek the advice of a physician with any questions you may have regarding a specific medical condition.