Hot springs are often associated with their myriad health benefits. However, many of these thermal pools boast elevated temperatures and acidic compositions that beg the question; are hot springs dangerous?
While most hot springs are considered generally safe, people should consider certain safety risks before visiting these thermal destinations. It is critical to be informed and practice vigilance before entering any body of water.
At What Temperatures are Hot Springs Dangerous?
The pool’s temperature is the first thing potential soakers need to be wary of before submerging in any natural spring. Hot springs can exist at a massive range of temperatures, from mildly warm to boiling.
Moreover, it can often be difficult to distinguish these two extreme temperatures by mere observation, with even the hottest of thermal pools appearing similar to the average cold mineral spring. As such, these scorching springs can often leave second, or even third-degree burns to unwary spring-goers.
For this reason, it is essential to practice caution before submerging in any unknown natural spring. To ensure safety, visitors should test the waters with a thermometer or some other external tool before dipping any body part into the spring.
What Are Some Other Risks of Swimming in a Natural Hot Spring?
While commercial pools are generally safely maintained for visitors, primitive hot springs are subject to their natural environment. Therefore, while hot springs are usually considered safe to swim in, some concerns arise with their rustic settings. These are just some of the most common dangers associated with hot springs that visitors should be wary of.
Sulfur can be present in a natural hot spring in several ways, including gas form, sulfates in the waters, and even hydrogen sulfide, which can evaporate into the atmosphere. While soaking in sulfur water is known to provide numerous health benefits, the presence of the chemical can also indicate danger.
For starters, while therapeutic, sulfur is much harsher than other minerals present in hot springs and may even trigger allergic reactions in specific individuals. However, what’s even more dangerous is the presence of hydrogen sulfide, which can be fatal at high concentrations due to its ability to block cellular respiratory enzymes.
Luckily, sulfur gives off a potent rotten egg-like smell that can help detect the chemical in a hot spring. While sulfur water can be safe in the right conditions, spring-goers should avoid submerging in any unknown wild spring that gives off the tell-tale smell.
Red Spider Mites
Small and barely perceptible to the human eye, red spider mites are common around hot springs and constantly seek new places to hatch their eggs. As such, clothes, towels, and other personal belongings are typical lures for these spiders, which are likely to bite your skin if given the opportunity.
Luckily, the spiders’ mild toxicity is not enough to affect the human body. Nevertheless, the sores the bites leave behind result in painful itches that can last several weeks or more.
To avoid these spider bites, visitors should hang their belongings away from the ground and apply anti-itch cream upon leaving the thermal pool.
Another common danger of hot springs is the potential of contracting an infection. This is more common in slightly cooler hot springs, providing more hospitable conditions for a pathogen to survive in.
Most commercial pools undergo frequent cleaning and purification processes to ensure safe swimming conditions for their patrons. However, the frequency of these cleanings varies between complexes and can range from several times a day to once a week.
Similarly, primitive pools which undergo no maintenance or regulation feature no artificial cleaning. As such, these pools are more likely to house dangerous pathogens if no natural flow displaces old spring water.
To avoid infections when visiting a hot spring, visitors should always inquire about how frequently a commercial spring changes its waters or see if a natural pool features a continuous flow that ensures a clean and fresh swimming experience.
Who Should Avoid Hot Springs?
While vigilant soakers can often avoid these common dangers of hot springs, some people should just avoid them altogether to ensure their safety.
For starters, it is suggested that no one should submerge in a hot spring when pregnant. This is because the hot water conditions in a thermal pool can raise body temperatures up to 102 degrees Fahrenheit. This triggers hyperthermia in the human body, which in turn can cause severe and even fatal reactions in babies.
Anyone with a pre-existing health risk, such as a heart condition, should seek medical advice before entering a hot spring.