How Healthy Are Hot Tubs?

A Healthier Michigan

| 4 min read

A couple in a hot tub
A day full of yard work, hours spent gardening or even time spent working around your home can leave you with tight muscles across your back, your shoulders and in your neck. The same goes for a tough day at work that leaves you tense even after you’ve pushed away from your desk. Even a workout session can leave you with sore muscles. On all these occasions, a long soak in a hot tub might sound pretty good. But for some people, sitting in a hot tub might be risky. How do you know if stepping into a hot tub is healthy for you?
Hot tubs have been around for decades. These days, you’ll find them not only at gyms and health clubs, but alongside hotel pools, at fancy resorts and in lots of backyards. They can be compact enough for just two people, or as big as a swimming pool. How hot the water is can be a matter of personal taste. Most commercial hot tubs are set around 100 to 102 degrees, but some people like to keep their personal hot tub set at body-temperature level of 98 degrees, while others may crank up the heat past 104 degrees.
Health benefits of hot tubs. Relaxation is often touted as the biggest benefit of taking a soak in a hot tub. Submerge yourself up to your shoulders and your limbs quickly feel warm and loose. For most people, the hot water can erase tight muscles and leave achy joints feeling refreshed.
Hot tubs can be good for your blood pressure, too. That’s because the hot water causes blood vessels in the body to get bigger. This can lower your overall blood pressure, according to an article from Harvard Medical School.
Sitting in a hot tub can also be a boost to your mental health, according to a doctor from the Cleveland Clinic. You may feel calmer after you enjoy a hot tub for a few minutes.
Health risks of hot tubs. However, medical officials caution that hot tubs are not for everyone. In fact, there are certain groups of people who should not use hot tubs at all. These include:
  • People with low blood pressure, or poorly-controlled blood pressure. Because hot tubs will cause blood pressure to drop, someone with already low blood pressure should not use them. The same goes for anyone whose blood pressure spikes, dips, or is otherwise unstable.
  • Someone with heart disease, or chest pain like angina, or a person whose doctor has told them not to do strenuous exercise. Using a hot tub can raise your heart rate. Your heart can beat faster in a hot tub, similar to how it might react if you are doing moderately intense exercise. For this reason, it’s best for these people to stay out of hot tubs.
  • Women who are pregnant. Hot tubs can be considered dangerous to the fetus during the first trimester of pregnancy, and most doctors don’t recommend them during the second or third trimesters, either. The hot temperatures are an issue, but so are the chemicals present in the water.
  • Anyone with epilepsy or a seizure disorder. Having a seizure in a hot tub can lead to drowning. People with these conditions should not use a hot tub unless they have another adult with them who is capable of pulling them out of the hot tub if something happens.
  • People with sensitive skin. Harsh germ-killing chemicals and chlorine typically are used to clean most hot tubs. Commercial cleaning products are usually used on large hot tubs at gyms, hotels and other spots frequented by the public. Much like swimming pools, these cleaning products can lead to rashes or dry patches for people with sensitive skin.
A note about the water in hot tubs: It is necessary to clean the water in a hot tub, because otherwise they spread germs like viruses and bacteria. Some of these include norovirus, which causes intestinal distress; the bacteria that causes Legionnaires’ disease; and cryptosporidium, a parasite that causes diarrhea. Even hot tubs that have been cleaned can still carry these risk in the water.

A Healthier Michigan is sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, a nonprofit, independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association.
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