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7 ways your shower could kill you


Jumping in the shower is meant to leave us feeling fresh, clean and invigorated.

Many of us spend hours a week scrubbing, buffing and enjoying a hot shower to invigorate us in the morning or send us off to sleep at night.

But startling new research reveals the spray that comes out of a unit could be more dangerous and dirtier than the water in our loo.

Their research into bathroom scum found bacteria and fungi linked to a range of illnesses from Legionnaires' and Crohn’s disease to septicaemia and skin, hair, ear and eye complaints.


Dirty shower water in the eyes can lead to an infection called keratitis or inflammation of the cornea which is linked to the Malassezia fungi.

Bacteria called Acanthamoeba could get into the eyes and cause horrific eye infections and could even lead to blindness.

He explained: “All water sources such as baths, showers, bathroom sinks, pools and sea water, contain the free living protozoan Acanthamoeba, which can cause this painful eye infection that can lead to blindness.

“This can be treated by antibiotic and antiseptic drops but the treatment can last for many months and even years - sometimes the treatment can involve a corneal graft in severe cases.


Scientists also found a bacterium called Pseudomonas aeruginosa which causes eye and ear infections.

This can lead to a condition called ‘swimmer’s ear’ and symptoms include swelling, pain, itching, difficulty hearing and discharge from the ear.

It is a tough bacteria which is hard to be rid of, but it doesn't generally affect healthy people and normally only strikes when someone is unwell or run down.


People catch Legionnaires’ disease when airborne droplets carrying the Legionella bacteria are inhaled into the lungs.

Legionella bacteria thrive in warm water between 20-45C, with temperatures of between 35-37C being the optimum - perfect for those who like their showers hot.

Symptoms can be flu-like at the start; tiredness, a cough, headache, high temperature or chills and fever and can be it is often misdiagnosed.

But if not treated quickly, it can be fatal - particularly in patients whose immune system has already been weakened such as the elderly, people with underlying respiratory problems or who are recovering from illness or surgery.

Smokers are also at greater risk of contracting the disease. "Legionnairres’ can be treated with antibiotics if administered early enough but without treatment it can kill.”


The Manchester University research also identified a fungi called Malassezia restricta that lives inside the black gunge in our shower heads. This causes dandruff and infections on the scalp.

Professor Mat Upton, who led the team, said that the fungus in the shower heads are 'of concern' - especially for those conscious about having a flaky scalp.

Stomach/Digestive system

A study by Lancaster University found one in ten shower heads were contaminated with a pathogen called Mycobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosis.

The complex-sounding bacteria has worrying consequences - it has been linked to Crohn's disease, a long-term illness that can have serious effects on sufferers.

Crohn’s disease is a condition that affects the digestive system and causes nausea, weight loss, diarrhoea and tiredness.

Experts suggest running the shower for a short period before stepping into it which can reduce the chance of coming into contact with the pathogen.


Researchers at the Sant’ Antonio Abate Hospital in Naples in Italy found that contaminated shower water can cause skin infections after operations or beauty treatments.

Women who had recently had a leg wax were highlighted as a group at the most risk as hair follicles were open and more vulnerable to infection.

They concluded: “Based on our experience, we suggest that shower or bath exposure should be included amongst the possible pathogenic events causing folliculitis.”

Dr Stefanie Williams agreed, saying that people who have had Microdermabrasion or laser treatment should consider washing with sterile, bottled water.

This is because procedures take away dry, dead skin and the new, smoother layer of skin underneath can be sensitive.


A worrying germ named Pseudomonas aeruginosa can be found in biofilm - the bacteria that collects on shower heads and in baths - and if these culminate in infections in the blood, they can be fatal.

Dr Paul McDermott said this was a particular worry with patients who are already very poorly and in hospital.

This is because their weak immune systems aren't able to fight it - and it could bring on the septicaemia.

He explained: “Pseudomonas are opportunist pathogens and those most at risk of infection are people who aren’t well and whose immune systems sadly don’t have the ability to fight it.


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