Friday, July 23, 2010

About Hot Tub Folliculitis

Hot Tub Folliculitis.  It reminds me of a certain movie that was recently in theaters and it sounds like it might be kinda cool.  Right?  WRONG!

Earlier this month, my son had his two-year old vaccines.  We went swimming at a friend's house a few days later.  He spent so much time in the water that his lips turned blue and he was shivering.  How did I remedy his chill?  Did I take him out of the pool?  Put him in warm clothes?  No.  I put him in the hot tub for a little bit. 

It wasn't super-hot or anything and I held him on my lap the entire time.  He finally warmed up and turned a normal hue so I took him out of the hot tub, dried him off, and put him in warm clothes.  I thought that was the end of the story, but it was only the beginning.

He developed a fever in the wee hours of the next morning, waking at 2:30 am with a high fever.  He suffered with a 104 degree fever for nearly two days.  I assumed it was a reaction to his vaccines.

A few days after that, he developed a few tiny red bumps on his back.  At first I thought that it was a reaction to a new sunscreen that I had used so I didn't use the sunscreen again.  But the bumps didn't go away.  And more bumps showed up the next day.

Ultimately, my son began to complain about his "boo-boo" as he would try to scratch his back.  Since the bumps were itchy, I started to that that he was being bit by something.  The obvious culprit would have been fleas, but I thought that it was possible that there was a mosquito on the loose in the house. 

I went on a cleaning rampage throughout the house, giving special focus to all soft surfaces, to drive any biting critters from our home.  I figured that nothing would survive a hot wash with a double hot rinse in the washing machine.  For good measure, I tossed everything in an extra long and hot cycle in the clothes dryer.  I thinned out his toys and books, but never found any evidence of any creepy crawlies.

At this point, the majority of the bumps were located on his lower back. They were particularly heavy at his waistband. He had one or two on his legs, two on his feet, one on his arm, several were clustered at his groin. My son walked into the kitchen as I was preparing dinner. He pulled down his shorts and showed me his wiener. I told him that his wiener didn't belong out in the kitchen. He told me he had a "boo-boo" so I looked a little closer. My heart broke when I noticed that he had two red bumps on his penis.

I became convinced that the problem was in his bedding so I changed his bed.  Sure that I finally took care of the problem, I confidently put my little boy to bed last night.  He woke up with more red bumps this morning.

It was all very puzzling and I spoke briefly with my husband about the matter.  One of us began to speculate on the meaning behind this rash and chicken pox came up.  I flipped the frack out at the notion that someone managed to infect my varicella-vaccinated son.  I spent some time looking into efficacy rates (only 70% to 90% - this is why it is so dang important that everyone gets vaxed!!), symptom timelines, and looking at Google Images of chicken pox rashes.  I couldn't tell if it was chicken pox or not.

A call to the doctor was in order.  After speaking with a nurse, it was suggested that we should see a doctor today.  I spent the day fretting over why my son had a rash.  I wondered if the fever was significant.  I suspected the vaccines.  I even cursed that I took my son to a farm field trip earlier this month because I thought that could have been the root cause of this rash.

As it turns out, the innocuous soak in the hot tub was most likely to blame.  I couldn't believe it.  I'm still dumbfounded.

The doctor says that he'll need thrice daily doses of antibiotics for ten days.  This is the first time that my son has been on antibiotics.  I guess that means that I'll be pushing the active culture yogurt for the next several days. 

I'm very thankful that hot tub folliculitis isn't easily communicable (the doctor didn't even glove up to examine his skin) as we've been around other toddlers.  The doctor indicated that quarantining him is unnecessary.  I've already notified my hot-tub owning friend of this unpleasant development so that they can take necessary action.

After spending hours researching hot tub folliculitis, I've reached the conclusion that the vaccines lowered my son's immunity just enough that he was susceptible to the bacteria responsible for the illness.  The fever spike is a rare, but not unheard of, symptom of infection.  While most cases of hot tub folliculitis present within 48 hours, it is possible that the inflammation (bumps) can take a couple of weeks to appear.

My son has been himself.  He has a hearty appetite.  He's active.  He has a pleasant demeanor.  His only obvious symptom of illness were the tiny red bumps that were itchy.  I regret that I waited so long to seek medical attention. 

My point in writing this post is not to illustrate that I'm a negligent parent, though I certainly feel that way at the moment.  My point in writing is to serve as a public service announcement.  I had never heard of folliculitis (which is an inflammation of the hair follicle), let alone something that sounds as ridiculous as Hot Tub Folliculitis.  But this is a very real illness and one that may not go away if left alone. 

Here are a few pointers:
- Do use caution when using a hot tub, any hot tub.  Our friends are great people and they are clean.  But somehow this bacteria took a foothold in their hot tub. 
- If you own a hot tub, do make sure that you maintain a sufficient amount of chlorine in your hot tub.
- Do pay attention to any sign of infection after you, or your loved ones, have been in a hot tub.  Signs of infection include fever, loss of appetite, lethargy, and the rash that indicates the hair follicles have become inflamed.
- Do seek medical attention if a rash appears and doesn't improve within a couple of days.
- Understand that Hot Tub Folliculitis is not easily transmitted person to person.
- Seek itch relief using an OTC anti-histamine.  Do ask a medical professional about the proper dosage for young children (use body weight to determine dosage if possible) and realize that sometimes anti-histamines can cause excitability (versus drowsiness) in young children.
- A 1% hydrocortisone cream or calamine lotion may also ease the itch.
- Clip the nails of young children to prevent them from excessive scratching.
- Take an oatmeal bath to soothe aggravated skin.  My cheap trick is to take the foot of old (but clean) pantyhose and fill it with oatmeal.  Tie a knot in it to make an oatmeal sachet.  Toss in a warm bath and enjoy!
- If antibiotics are prescribed, do continue to take the medicine for the entire amount of time prescribed.  You may feel better within a couple of days, but follow the full course to prevent antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
- Throw away all remaining antibiotics that remain after following the full course of treatment.  Don't flush down toilets, just empty it in the garbage.

I'm sure that my son will be okay and, if our story spares the suffering of another little one, this post was well worth the time it took to write.


  1. In intense cases, Folliculitis Treatment may not be necessary. Different times, anti-infection agents or antibacterial medications with benzoyl peroxide might be given. There are few Folliculitis Natural Treatment that can treat folliculitis .

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