• Lisamarie Lamb

Can You Catch Legionnaires' Disease From Showers?

Legionnaires' disease may be contracted in the shower, and this is a fact. There's a good chance you won't develop the sickness if you live in your house full time, however, as you will be using the water more often, and it won't have a chance to sit in the tank where legionella bacteria can proliferate. Showers at a gym, hotel, hospital, or office—anywhere with a big domestic water system—have a higher risk of exposing you to the illness. If these locations aren't always occupied, it's possible that water use will be less frequent.



Photo by Jill Burrow



How Do You Catch Legionnaires' Disease From A Shower?

Any water system can have legionella bacteria grow in it if the right conditions are there. The bacteria can only grow in water between 20°C and 45°C, so any body of water in that range is at risk. Also, bacteria can grow well with the help of nutrients like rust, sludge, scale, sediment, and algae. These are a big problem when water stays in one place for a long time (for example, if a shower or tap is not regularly used).


When someone turns on the shower or tap, bacteria-filled water droplets spread through the spray, which is made up of tiny droplets called aerosols. Aspiration is how people get these aerosols into their lungs. They are small enough to breathe in. The bacteria from legionella then get into the lungs, and the person gets legionnaires' disease or Pontiac fever.


You can also get the disease by drinking water that has legionella bacteria in it. People who have trouble swallowing are at a higher risk.


How To Prevent Legionnaires' Disease

The first thing to think about is where the water in the shower comes from. Most of the time, it will come from a tank, which may be heated. If so, what temperature is the storage tank for hot water set to? Legionella bacteria will be able to grow at any temperature between 20°C and 45°C. So, the water needs to be kept at 60°C and given out at a temperature above 50°C to make sure bacteria can't live.


Also, if the water in the shower comes from a tank, it needs to be checked often and kept clean. A tight-fitting lid on the tank is a good idea. This will keep debris from getting in and rust, biofilm, and corrosion from forming on the inside. Legionella bacteria eat these things, so taking away their food source is a good way to stop the disease from spreading.


Where you live can also make you more likely to get legionella bacteria. The geology of a place changes how hard the water is. Rain is soft, but when it passes through rocks, minerals like calcium and magnesium start to dissolve in the water. Hard water is water that has a lot of minerals in it.


When water companies deliver hard water to homes, limescale builds up in the pipes, faucets, and showerheads. Legionella bacteria get food from limescale, which helps them grow. Because of this, legionella bacteria tend to grow in places with hard water, and showerheads and taps must be descaled regularly to keep limescale from building up.


Contact Assured Water to find out more.


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