Hot Springs Risks



The thermal springs are naturally formed by geothermal activity far away from the Earth surface. Each hot springs is a result of the hydrological cycle with its own characteristics including mineral content, mineral combinations, temperature, and pressure. Minerals, their combinations, and heat itself provide numerous benefits to the body.

However, while mineral hot springs offers numerous health benefits, there are some things to be cautious about as well. Read more about hot springs risks and safety tips to avoid health problems.

High Temperature

It is a known fact that hot springs temperatures range from mildly warm to dangerously hot. Extremely hot temperature can be enough to cause second- or even third-degree burns on an individual. Before entering hot springs, always test water temperatures.

Prolonged soaking (20 minutes and more) may lead to hyperthermia when body temperature raises to increases to 102°F (38.9°C). If the body temperature increases to 104°F (40°C) or higher, you put yourself at serious risk for heatstroke. Heatstroke can cause irreversible damage to the brain and other organs.

Sulfur

In high concentration, hydrogen sulfide has toxic effects and can be fatal due to the blocking of cellular respiratory enzymes leading to cell anoxia and cell damage. Do not bath in the unknown wild hot springs.

Sulfur can trigger an allergic reaction in some people. Talk with your health provider if you think you have the allergy to sulfur.



Amoeba Naegleria Fowleri

Amoeba Naegleria Fowleri is a microorganism capable of surviving temperatures as high as 113 degrees Fahrenheit (45°C), which is roughly how much the human body can withstand. Saltwater doesn’t affect amoeba either and it can survive there just as well. It makes this microscopic organism particularly dangerous since water temperature which kills a lot of other microorganisms doesn’t affect this amoeba.

This microorganism enters the human body through the nose during swimming or diving. It attacks brain tissue causing Primary Amoebic Meningoencephalitis (PAM) or Naegleriasis which is typically lethal. Because of it, the Amoeba Naegleria Fowleri is also referred to as Brain-Eating Amoeba. You can’t get infected if you drink contaminated water.

This amoeba can be found in a variety of places including hot springs, warm lakes, and warm rivers, poorly maintained swimming pools and spas, soil, mud, indoor dust, aquariums, and tap water. Infections are rare despite Amoeba Naegleria Fowleri being pretty common worldwide. Infections related to water exposure typically range from 0 to 8 cases a year, primarily between July and September.

Some researches have indicated that only some people develop PAM while others do not. Around 80% of all infections were in males while over 60% were children at the age of 13 or younger.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lists 34 cases of infection from 2010 to 2019. 30 of those were related to recreational swimming or soaking while 3 were caused by nasal irrigation with contaminated water.

Ways to prevent Primary Amoebic Meningoencephalitis (PAM)

  • Keep your head above the water when soaking in hot springs
  • Don’t jump into warm lakes and rivers and keep your head above water during swimming
  • Use nose clips or hold your nose when you jump, dive or swim underwater in warm swimming pools, rivers, or lakes
  • Don’t disturb sediment while swimming in warm and shallow freshwater
  • Don’t use untreated tap water to flush or irrigate your nose.

Heart Health

Soaking in hot water of mineral springs can increase heart rate and lower blood pressure. Rapid heart rate rises cause a drastic drop in blood pressure that, in turn, shocks the body and can lead to lightheadedness, fainting, and even cardiac arrest.

Changes in temperature which occur gradually is what causes improvement in cardiovascular function. People with heart conditions should ask their doctors before entering hot waters.

Pregnancy

It is also advised for pregnant women to maintain a safe distance from hot springs as it can cause neural tube defects (brain and spinal cord damage) in the baby and miscarriage. 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.

Hot water of springs or tubs, as well as sauna and steam room, can raise body temperature to 102°F (38.9°C) for 10 minutes triggering hyperthermia. If you are pregnant and decide to use hot springs, hot tub or sauna, limit your session to 10 minutes or less.

That brings this discussion to its final conclusion. It must be evident by now that the numerous benefits of a soak in these mineral hot springs far outweighs the few precautions that need to be taken. It would truly be a shame for anyone to miss out such a beautiful and enriching (literally!!) experience, for the mind, body, and soul.



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Highlights

Mineral hot springs offers many benefits but there are some things to be cautious

Extremely hot temperature can be enough to cause second- or even third-degree burns

Bathing in hot water can increase heart rate and lower blood pressure

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2. "Parasites — Naegleria fowleri — Primary Amebic Meningoencephalitis (PAM) — Amebic Encephalitis" CDC
3. Chambers CD. "Risks of hyperthermia associated with hot tub or spa use by pregnant women". 2006. Birth Defects Reseach (part A)
4. Edwards MJ, et al. "Hyperthermia and birth defects". 1995. Reprod Toxicol 9(5):411.
5. Milunsky A, et al. Maternal heat exposure and neural tube defects. 1992. JAMA 268(7):882.
6. Yasuo Tsuchiya,Tomihiro Shimizu, Teruyuki Tazawa, Kazutoshi Nakamura, and Masaharu Yamamoto. Effects of hot deep seawater bathing on the immune cell distribution in peripheral blood from healthy young men. NCBI. Japan 2003.
7. Nathaniel Altman. Healing Springs: The Ultimate Guide to Taking the Waters. 2000.
8. Daldal H, Beder B, Serin S, Sungurtekin H. Hydrogen sulfide toxicity in a thermal spring: a fatal outcome. NCBI. 2010.


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