Hot Tub Rash: What it is & How to Avoid it

Letting your own little Muscle Man into the hot tub? Make sure you take precautions to avoid Hot Tub Rash.

One thing I LOVE about heading to the Smokies and holing up in a cabin in the winter. It’s not the fact that the roads may be impassible. It’s not that some cabins are drafty and cold. But it IS soaking in a hot tub in a world of white.

Yes, I LOVE to soak in a hot tub in the winter. It’s SO miserably cold to get in, but worth it as you sit in that hot steam that rises off the water. Ahhh … I could sure use a winter hot tub soak right now. There are few things so relaxing.

But sitting in a hot tub can have an undesired effect, as well. It’s called Hot Tub Rash (it has a real name, too — Pseudomonas dermatitis / Folliculitis). And it’s pretty common.

What is Hot Tub Rash?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Preventions (CDC), hot tub usually manifests itself in an itchy red rash and pus-filled blisters around hair follicles. Gross, right?

The rash is usually in an area that was covered by a bathing suit. Even worse!

Why does this happen? Well, because hot tubs are warm, chlorine and other chemicals break down faster. That gives the germ causing the rash free reign in the water. This is especially true when you sit in the water for long periods of time. (Which is the whole point of a hot tub, if you ask me.)

Hot Tub Rash can affect people of all ages, but kids get it more often than adults. It will show up within two days after contact with contaminated water. Once someone has it, it’s not contagious.

You can get Hot Tub Rash from other places, too, like swimming pools, water slides, or even your loofah sponge in the shower!

What do I do if I have Hot Tub Rash?

Well, try not to panic. If your rash is in an area that was covered by your suit, you can feel pretty confident that Hot Tub Rash is what you’ve got. If it’s not, you should check with a doctor, just to make sure.

The good news is that most rashes clear up on their own, in 7 to 10 days. If it isn’t gone in 10 days, consult a doctor. In rare cases, skin abscesses may form and you may need an antibiotic.

The rash may discolor your skin for a few months or leaving you feeling extra tired. That’s normal.

Here are some ways to help the rash at home:

  • Use vinegar compresses up to four times a day for 20 minutes, if the itching is bad. Acetic acid kills bacteria.
  • Use Silver sulfadiazine cream twice a day (brand name is Silvadene)
  • Take sitz baths with luke warm water and baking soda, peppermint, or oatmeal twice a day for 20 minutes at a time.
  • Use over-the-counter itch creams and antihistamines.
  • Mix equal amounts of cinnamon powder and honey and put the paste on the itch.
  • Load up on calamine lotion.

How can I avoid getting Hot Tub Rash?

Well, lest you think it’s inevitable, please know that I LOVE hot tubs, but haven’t ever gotten Hot Tub Rash. In fact, of all the family we have that travels with us to the Smokies and soaks in hot tubs, only one member has ever gotten it.

But here are a few tips for avoiding Hot Tub Rash:

  • After using a hot tub, take off your suit immediately (well, once you’re back in your room. Not, like, on the deck. Don’t embarrass your family members…). Shower with soap before getting dressed.
  • Wash your suit before wearing again, even if it’s just in the sink.
  • If it’s a hot tub you have any control over, make sure it’s well-maintained. For optimal germ-free-ness, hot tubs should be checked twice a day.
  • If that’s not in your control, test the water yourself. You can buy Chlorine Test Strips various places (here’s a link for test strips at Amazon.com — they retails for $10.49 for 50 strips)

Looking for more info? Here are some sources:

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