What People With Diabetes Should Know About Hot Tubs

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Taking a soak in a spa or hot tub can release tension from your muscles—and your mind. Some evidence even suggests it can help control your diabetes.

As the hot water boosts your core temperature, your body activates its natural cooling mechanisms. Blood vessels near your skin dilate to release some of the extra heat you’ve absorbed.

This increase in blood flow has beneficial effects, especially if you can’t exercise. More nutrient-rich blood reaches your muscles as a result. In some studies, regular hot tub visits actually reduced blood glucose levels in people with diabetes.

But before you self-medicate with whirlpool jets and chlorine, check with your doctor. Hot tubs also present some added risks for people with diabetes.

Beware of Burns

Diabetes can contribute to nerve damage, leaving your feet less sensitive to hot or cold temperatures. Stepping into boiling water could scald you before you feel a thing. To prevent burns, keep the water temperature at 105°F (40.5°C) or lower. Always dip your elbow in first to test the waters.

Protect Your Heart Health

Though you may feel relaxed, excessive heat can cause your heart to beat faster. If you have an underlying heart problem, you risk serious heart damage as a result. Talk with your doctor about heart concerns before soaking. Even if your heart appears healthy, hop out of the tub after 20 minutes. And never enter a hot tub alone—always be sure there is someone nearby in case there is an emergency.

Mind Your Insulin

Hot tubs pose special challenges if you take insulin. If you wear an insulin pump, you’ll most likely need to remove it before entering. Check with your doctor to see how long you can safely go without it.

In addition, heat can increase the rate at which your body absorbs insulin. This means the dose of insulin you took before your soak may not last as long as it usually does. The end result could be low blood glucose levels.

Check your blood glucose more frequently than usual in and around hot tub time. Staying hydrated can also help keep your core temperature in check and your blood glucose steady.

Steer Clear of Infections

Bacteria love to bask in the same temperate waters that you do. The cleaner the hot tub, the lower the risk that harmful microorganisms residing within it will cause infections.

Commercial hot tubs accommodating high numbers of bathers pose a bigger risk than private Jacuzzis. But stay out of the water altogether if you have an open sore or wound. Such injuries give bacteria an open entry into your body.

Key Takeaways

  • Hot tub use can increase your blood flow, so more nutrient-rich blood reaches your muscles. This may reduce blood glucose levels in some people with diabetes.

  • However, there are risks. Excessive heat can cause your heart to beat faster, which is risky if you have an underlying heart problem.

  • Heat can increase the rate at which your body absorbs insulin. This means the dose of insulin you took before your soak may not last as long as it usually does.

  • If you have nerve damage, stepping into boiling water could scald you before you feel a thing.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2019 Aug 27
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