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Common hot tub chemical sparks allergies

January 26, 2009 9:17:44 AM PST
Hot tubs and whirlpools can be relaxing, and take off the winter chill. But some doctors say a growing number of people are becoming allergic to something inside them.

For years, Bill and Lynn Mumford eagerly waited to get a hot tub... Saving money for the tub, the new deck, and the doors to get to it.

But after all that, Bill found out he couldn't use it.

Bill rermembers, "Before I got diagnosed, it had been probably a month or two since I'd even been in the hot tub, because the itchiness and the rash just wasn't worth it."

Bill is in a rare, but growing group of people.

He is allergic to a very popular chemical used to treat the water in hot tubs.

It's called Potassium peroxymonosulfate.

It can cause severe skin reactions.

Dr. Matthew Zirwas, of Ohio State University Medical Center, says, "Just intensely itchy, red, flaky - to the point where they scratch so much that they start to bleed, because it's so intensely itchy."

Dr. Zirwas is part dermatologist, part detective.

He has a reputation for finding allergy triggers others can't.

I

n fact, before Bill Mumford came along, there were only 2 cases on record of people being allergic to hot tubs and pools.

The doctor says, "I've now seen half a dozen patients who'd all had allergy to this chemical, and it's made them get severe rashes whenever they've gotten into their hot tubs."

Unfortunately, most people don't know they're allergic until they are already "in hot water," so to speak.

The doctors says before you use a hot tub, start slowly.

Put your feet in first - if your skin turns red and itchy within 5 minutes, stay out.

And if you own a hot tub, know what chemicals are going into it.

"There are other chemicals they can use for the same purpose. It takes a couple more steps for the hot tub owner if they're going to use one of these alternative ways of treating the water," says Dr. Zirwas.

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