Hot Tubs Aren't Just for Fun, but Don't Try Whirlpool 'Hydrotherapy' at Home
May 10, 2000 -- Doctors often prescribe hydrotherapy -- the external use of
water to treat certain diseases -- to promote wound healing. However, reports
that people have contracted diseases from hot tubs may scare some people.
But with the preventive measures hospitals have in place, there's really no
comparison between public hot tubs and hydrotherapy using whirlpools, says
Betsy Hackman, RN, CIC, director of infection control at Emory Hospitals.
"They're both bodies of water, but that's where the similarity
Patients with wounds shouldn't worry about contracting infections during
hydrotherapy, she says. "Some people have gotten Legionnaire's disease from
hot tubs that weren't properly disinfected, " says Hackman. "But
hospitals are required to enforce strict measures to prevent infection,
otherwise they'll be shut down."
Hydrotherapy softens and removes dead tissue from burns, bedsores, and
diabetic foot ulcers, says Jo Ann Waldrop, MSN, RN, assistant director of the
Wound, Ostomy, and Continence Nursing Education Program at Emory University.
"And once the dead tissue is out of the way, healthy tissue can
Burn patients often receive daily hydrotherapy in the hospital.
"Hydrotherapy is an important part of burn care, whether it's in a tank or
from a showerhead," says Walter Ingram, MD, director of the burn unit at
Grady Memorial Hospital and assistant professor of surgery at Emory
"But the patients really dread it, so we try to make hydrotherapy more
tolerable by giving pain medication beforehand," says Ingram. "And as
their burns begin to heal, we reduce treatments to three times a week on an
Because burn patients are at risk for infection, Ingram tells WebMD that
hydrotherapy tanks are disinfected between patients, and disposable liners are
used. Also, a chlorine solution is run through the showerheads regularly.
Similar measures are used in whirlpool therapy. "We treat patients for
bedsores and diabetic foot ulcers, many of which have infections that are
resistant to antibiotics," says Mary Lawton, PT, a whirlpool specialist at
Emory University Hospital. "So we add iodine to the bath and disinfect the
tub after every use."
To handle the disinfectants, technicians must wear face shields and
chemical-resistant gloves. "That's why we discourage the use of home
whirlpool systems," adds Lawton. "It's not practical to use
hospital-grade disinfectants at home. Besides, hand-held showerheads remove
dead tissue just as well."
- Hydrotherapy is often prescribed to soften and remove dead tissue from
burns, bedsores, and diabetic foot ulcers, making way for health tissue to
- Patients receive hydrotherapy in the hospital, but it can be quite
uncomfortable and may require pain medications.
- Hospitals have strict sanitation practices to prevent the spread of