The wet and warm environment of your shower head is a prime real estate for germs, bacteria & mould
Bacteria in your showerhead is reality. Your showerhead is prime real estate for sediment build-up from fine particles in the water, bacteria and mould.
You no doubt think that stepping into your shower will wash away dirt and germs in the showerhead. However, studies from the University of Colorado, NYU Langone Medical Center and Manchester University have concluded that bacteria thrive inside and outside showerheads. Furthermore, they have found showerheads have the potential to harbour more bacteria than your toilet.
We live surrounded by bacteria, some being beneficial, some being harmless, and a few are potentially lethal. These potentially lethal bacteria in a showerhead may cause lung infections, yet few of us consider the implications of bacteria in your showerhead.
Mycobacteria are found in abundance in showerheads
All the studies concluded that bacteria in your showerhead is real. These bacteria can cause illness live in our showerheads. Therefore, it’s important to understand how people can be exposed to them.
The most likely cause of lung infection that you can get from a showerhead is mycobacteria.
Mycobacteria is a bacteria distantly related to bacteria that cause tuberculosis and leprosy. It is part of rapidly growing mycobacteria and is typically found in water, soil, and dust.
Dr Marc Siegel, a professor of medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City, confirmed that bacteria grow in moist wet places like showerheads. “This is a reminder to clean your showerhead, which nobody does,” he said, though “most of us are likely to tolerate mycobacteria and not get sick from it.”
Bacteria in showerheads won’t cause an outbreak of lung infections. However, Dr Siegal suggested people who are run down or who have a compromised immune system or a chronic condition may be vulnerable. Dr Siegal said bacteria also live on your toothbrush and in your basin, and on any moist surface to put it in perspective,
Dr Siegel recommends cleaning your showerhead every week or two with a disinfectant that contains ammonia to be sure you kill all the germs nesting there. “Add your showerhead to the list of things in the bathroom that need cleaning,” he said.
What is mycobacteria bacteria in your showerhead?
As Dr Siegal pointed out, you are unlikely to get sick with mycobacteria. Infections with atypical mycobacteria in Australia occur at a rate of 1.8 cases per 100,000 population.
In Queensland, all cases of mycobacterial infection are notifiable under the Queensland Public Health Act.
The Australian Government Department of Health undertook the last national survey on mycobacteria in 2000. The main sites of infection are identified in the respiratory tract, soft tissue, pulmonary and lymphatics.
To read the mycobacteria survey for consumers, click here.
Bacteria that could be found in your showerhead
Manchester University has conducted studies into the condition of the inside of showerheads. There were multiple bacteria and fungi found in the showerheads that they tested which were:
- Legionella bacteria which can cause Legionnaires’ disease and Pontiac fever
- Pseudomonas aeruginosa which can trigger ear and eye infections
- Mycobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosis which is linked to digestive conditions including Crohn’s disease
- Malassezia fungi which are linked to eye conditions
- Malassezia restrict which is linked to scalp infections
- Acanthamoeba which is also linked to eye infections
The solution is to clean your showerhead regularly
As Dr Siegal recommended, you should regularly clean your showerhead, which doesn’t mean just the parts you can see. While infection rates are low, it makes sense to keep your showerhead clean – particularly if you have recently been ill, or are run down or are more prone to infection due to a compromised immune system.
Cleaning your showerhead means removing it from its arm or hose and then dismantling it to clean both inside and out to remove any scale, debris or bacteria that potentially is lurking unseen inside the showerhead itself.
Few of us have ever contemplated the simple act of jumping into the shower in the morning to wake you up or to leave you feeling relaxed and fresh last thing at night before getting into bed is potentially a health risk.
Should you replace your showerhead regularly?
According to some “experts”, Bacteria in your showerhead is so much of a risk you should replace your showerhead every six months.
This is pointless as good quality showerheads that are cleaned and maintained will last ten years plus. Imagine the cost of having new showerheads installed every six months, especially if you have three bathrooms, all with showers.
The range of modern showerheads available is extensive with most of the quality brands from manufacturers coming with full 2-5 year warranties.
In South-East Queensland, we don’t have hard water that destroys plumbing fixtures. This means cleaning your showerhead regularly is all that is required.
How to clean a showerhead?
Bacteria in your showerhead is controllable by cleaning a showerhead properly. Despite the urban myths you hear, bleach will not clean your showerhead.
The reality is, as the research clearly indicates that keeping your showerhead clean could mean the difference between good health and bad health, so reduce the potential risk and keep your showerhead clean with this simple method.