• Prolonged soaking may lead to hyperthermia
• Read more about the hot springs risks and safety tips
The furthest thing in the mind of holidaymakers when visiting hot springs is thinking about hot springs risk and safety tips. This is mainly because these spots are known to cure some skin conditions and help alleviate joint and muscle problems, lower blood pressure, boost metabolism, relieve stress, reduce depression and anxiety, as well as cure insomnia.
These benefits have been medically proven. However, there are also risks and some things to be cautious. I have outlined the major ones below.
It is a known fact that temperatures of hot springs range from mildly warm to extremely hot that can be enough to cause second- or even third-degree burns. Before entering wild hot springs, use a thermometer and test water temperatures. In some hot springs, due to specific geological features, the temperature can changes quickly during seconds from warm to scalding.
Be careful if the springs are undeveloped and unknown to you. Use your common sense and best judgment.
Prolonged soaking may lead to hyperthermia (high body temperature) and put you at great risk for heatstroke which can occur when the body temperature increases to 104°F (40°C) or higher. Heatstroke can cause damage to the brain and other organs.
Sulfur occurs naturally in the earth and escapes in the gas form with the smell of "rotten eggs". Sulfur also exits in the form of sulfates in the hot springs water. It is also present in the form of hydrogen sulfide that evaporates into the atmosphere giving off the distinctive sulfur odor.
Though soaking in sulfur water provides many therapeutic and healing effects, in some people sulfur can trigger an allergic reaction. Talk with your health provider if you think you have an allergy to sulfur.
Hydrogen sulfide is a toxic gas and in a high concentration can be fatal due to the blocking of cellular respiratory enzymes that can cause cell anoxia and cell damage. Do not bath in the unknown wild hot springs, particularly, if it has a strong smell of "rotten eggs".
Hot Springs Red Spider Mites
Though barely perceptible to the naked eye, spiders are a real risk. They normally hang around hot springs and on the surface of the water. These spiders tend to look for new areas to hatch their eggs and thus cling to clothes, towels, and other personal belongings. A long as they are next to your skin, you are likely to get bitten.
Fortunately, your body’s immunity would neutralize any mild toxicity that spiders inject into your system. However, the painful itches will linger with you for a couple of weeks. The effect is worsened through scratching which makes the sores wider and more painful. The best precaution for this is to make sure that you hang your personal effects away from the ground and apply anti-itch cream as soon as you leave the water.
Another hot springs risk and the safety tips that you should be aware of is that of disease-causing infections. Ideally, most of the time, surface water especially in human-made hot springs tend to be cooler than the hot spring itself. Though it offers relief from potentially scalding, it is cool enough to support the growth of pathogens and disease-causing organisms.
Fortunately, not many deaths attributed to this. Avoid hot springs if you have deep cuts and wounds because it can be infected.
A microscopic organism, Amoeba Naegleria fowleri can survive in temperatures as high as the human body can withstand up to 113 degrees Fahrenheit (45°C). This type of amoeba enters the body through the nasal cavity while swimming or diving. Rarely, it can attack the brain tissue and is often offered as Brain-Eating Amoeba. The result is known as Primary Amebic Meningoencephalitis (PAM) or Naegleriasis which is a potentially lethal brain infection. People do not get infected by drinking contaminated water.
Naegleria is found in hot springs, warm lakes, and warm rivers, poorly maintained swimming pools and spas, soil, mud, indoor dust, aquariums, and tap water. This amoeba can survive in saltwater. While this amoeba is commonly found worldwide, cases of infection are rare. Limited studies are suggested that some people do not develop PAM while others do. About 80% of US PAM cases are in males and over 60% are in children age 13 or younger.
Associated with water exposures, Naegleriasis' incidents are ranged between 0 and 8 cases per year, typically from July to September.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), among 34 PAM reported cases between 2010 and 2019, 30 patients had recreational water exposure and 3 people were infected by nasal irrigation using contaminated tap water.
About 80% of PAM cases are in males and over 60% are children age 13 or younger.
Primary Amebic Meningoencephalitis Prevention
- Do not lower your head into hot spring water
- Don't swim in or jump into warm freshwater lakes or rivers
- Hold your nose shut or use nose clips when jumping or diving into warm bodies or swimming pools
- Avoid disturbing the sediment while swimming in shallow, warm freshwaters
- Do not use untreated tap water in a neti pot to flush your sinuses or nose.
One of the most lauded benefits of hot springs, as well as a spa treatment, is the prevention of various cardiovascular diseases but wait, there is a paradox here. It is also proven that cardiac arrests happen more times in hot springs and during hot baths. In fact, it happens more often than normally reported.
A high temperature can lower blood pressure. However, the sudden temperature rise causes a drastic drop in blood pressure that, in turn, shocks the body and stresses the heart, giving way to lightheadedness, fainting, and even cardiac arrest. The same change in temperature, but gradually, causes improvement in cardiovascular function.
So what precaution should you take? It is as simple as allowing your body to first adjust to the temperature of the area. Gradually dip your legs before submerging your body in the hot springs for ten to fifteen minutes. Do not be in a hurry - take your time, and you will receive all benefits that hot mineral waters offer.
People with heart conditions should look for medical advice before entering hot tubs or hot springs.
It's not safe to soak in hot water during pregnancy. Hot water can raise body temperature to 102°F (38.9°C) for 10 minutes triggering hyperthermia. Some studies reported that hyperthermia during the first four to six weeks of pregnancy increases the risk of neural tube defects (brain and spinal cord damage) in babies or spontaneous abortion. Also, a few studies suggest a small increased risk for other birth defects such as a heart defect, an abdominal wall defect, or oral cleft. If you are pregnant and decide to go to hot springs, hot tub, or sauna, limit your session to 10 minutes or less.
As much as you are having fun, you must take great care of yourself. With these crucial hot springs risks and safety tips, you will be better placed to relax and fully enjoy your dipping experience.
This content provides general educational information only. It does not intend to substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. We make no medical claims. Always consult your medical provider for more information.