Here's How Your Shower Is Trying To Kill You
Who knew showers could be so psycho?
There's a lot that's dangerous about taking a shower. Slipping over is one real fear. As is getting shampoo in your eyes. Maybe you'll find a clump of someone else's hair in the drain.
Now you can add contracting a rare but very serious disease to the list. It's called nontuberculous mycobacterial (NTM) lung disease and it's a doozy.
Some of the less-than-pleasant symptoms of NTM lung disease include a chronic cough --sometimes with bloody sputum aka mucus -- fever, chills, weight loss and weakness.
The bacteria that causes NTM is naturally found widely in the environment including rivers, swamps, garden soil and even in treated city water. As in, the water from your taps at home.
Say what?? Yup, because the pesky bacteria are so tough -- something about their lipid-rich cell wall -- they're resistant to some disinfectants and water treatment measures.
According to a new study published by the American Society Of Microbiology NTM bacteria L-O-V-E shower heads in particular, where they're unwittingly inhaled by whoever's lathering up underneath it.
Scientists collected samples from 656 shower heads across the US and Europe, and found that NTM was consistently the most abundant type of bacteria present.
In the US alone, over 80,000 people reportedly have NTM.
Just because we live down under doesn't mean Aussie showers are safe. The Lung Foundation of Australia states on its website that yes, NTM is an issue in Aus, and that it particularly affects women 50 years of age or older.
As the symptoms of NTM are quite similar to those of its deadly cousin tuberculosis (TB), cases of both diseases were confused in the past and it was hard to get a grasp on just how many people had NTM.
Recent improvements to health classification processes mean that we're now getting a clearer idea of NTM rates, and with the country's ageing population the condition is expected to become more common.
Treatment involves a few types of antibiotics and it can take up to two whole years for the infection to clear up. Sometimes surgical removal of the infected tissue is required.
The disease itself can be chronic and destructive, however it's very uncommon for people to die from NTM.
Let's focus on some of the positives. We all come into contact with NTM bacteria every day, but not everyone is at risk of developing a full-blown infection.
People with underlying lung conditions like bronchiectasis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and asthma, and other health issues like HIV/AIDS and transplant recipients are at greater risk.
Also, unlike TB, NTM isn't easily passed from person to person.
So what can you do with your shower at home? You might want to think about switching your metal shower head to a plastic one, as metal shower heads were more likely to contain mycobacteria than plastic, according to the ASM study.
There's definitely no need to tear your shower head out of the wall in any case. NTM lung disease is very rare, and the bacteria that causes it is just one of over 180 different species that aren't a problem to the vast majority of the population.
Feature Image: Getty