"Doctors often don't think to ask their patients if they have been using a hot tub," says Viktor Hanak, MD, pulmonary fellow at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. "Patients also need to tell their doctors if they regularly use a hot tub if they have respiratory problems."
The study alerts physicians and the general public to the phenomenon of hot tub lung; it is a series of cases so there is no information on how common this is, says J. Randall Curtis, MD, international program chairman for the American Thoracic Society.
"But this is a treatable condition and it's important to receive early treatment before damage is done," Randall tells WebMD.
Hot Tubs May Damage Lungs
The Mayo report includes 22 people who had symptoms for an average of seven months. All had coughing, shortness of breath, fever, and weight loss, says Hanak.
The patients were on average 46 years old and included both men and women.
"They had fatigue and their oxygen levels dropped to dangerous levels so they had to be put on oxygen. It took months before they were diagnosed," he says.
Although most had been to the doctor, they were misdiagnosed with asthma or bronchitis, he tells WebMD. "It is difficult to diagnose if you don't think of asking about a hot tub, but nobody thinks of it. Therefore, most patients have been diagnosed with something else."