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Hot Tub Folliculitis

Definition

A hair follicle is a small cavity of the skin in which a hair develops. When one or more of these becomes inflamed or infected, it is called folliculitis. Hot tub folliculitis is an infection of the hair follicles that occurs after being in a hot tub.

What is going on in the body?

Bacteria calledcan grow in hot tub water that is not adequately treated with chemicals. When a person soaks in the water, the bacteria can enter the hair follicle. This causes an infection.

Risks

What are the causes and risks of the infection?

Hot tub folliculitis is caused by exposure to contaminated water in a hot tub or spa. People with open cuts or sores, people with diabetes, or those have a history of other skin conditions are at increased risk for infection.

Prevention

What can be done to prevent the infection?

To prevent hot tub folliculitis, the pH and chemicals such as chlorine or bromine need to be closely monitored in hot tubs and spas. This will help to decrease the growth of Pseudomonas aeruginosa.

Diagnosed

How is the infection diagnosed?

A healthcare professional may suspect hot tub folliculitis after taking a person's health history and doing a physical exam. The presence of skin lesions and a history of exposure to a hot tub or spa usually confirm the diagnosis.

Long Term Effects

What are the long-term effects of the infection?

Long term effects of folliculitis include furuncles (boils), abscesses, or deep skin infections, known as cellulitis. With treatment, these complications are rare.

Other Risks

What are the risks to others?

Folliculitis is contagious, that is, it may be spread from one person to another. Individuals with folliculitis should wash their hands thoroughly. They should also not share towels or washcloths. People with this condition should not use a hot tub until the infection has cleared up.

Treatments

What are the treatments for the infection?

Treatment for hot tub folliculitis usually consists of cleansing the infected area thoroughly with soap and water. Warm water soaks can be used. Antibiotic ointment should be applied to the skin rash. If symptoms do not go away, oral antibiotics may be needed. The person should not scratch the pustules, as this can make symptoms worse.

Side Effects

What are the side effects of the treatments?

Antibiotic ointments may cause skin irritation. Oral antibiotics may cause stomach upset, diarrhea or allergic reaction.

After Treatment

What happens after treatment for the infection?

A person should monitor the folliculitis rash and contact a healthcare professional if symptoms progress or do not improve.

Monitor

How is the infection monitored?

A person should monitor the folliculitis rash and contact a healthcare provider if symptoms progress or do not improve.

Sources

Mayo Family Health Book, David E. Larson, 1996.

Professional Guide to Diseases, Springhouse, 1995

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