Is your shower making you sick? - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Is your shower making you sick?

BLOOMFIELD, MO (KFVS) -

Could your shower actually be putting your health at risk?  From everyday allergies to chronic lung disease, doctors say your shower could be to blame.

There is a condition out there that stems from something called non-tuberculosis mycrobacterium complex.

You could find the bacteria in your showerhead, according to doctors.

Patients report coughing to the point of exhaustion. We learned that's actually just one of many things that could aggravate just about anybody, including people who suffer from multiple allergies.

Teresa Wright of Bloomfield is one of those suffering. She says she has a new respect for cleaning her shower.

"I have to make sure bacteria and mold doesn't grow into it and cause problems in my lungs," said Wright.

She's been diagnosed with a variety of allergies and other asthma related issues. She has to perform a number of treatments every day.

In her battle against pollen, mold, and bacteria she wasn't surprised to learn doctors and biologists now warn your showerhead could host even more bacteria.

"It's something new every day," said Wright.

In fact, a new study from a Colorado University found a bacteria known as non-tuberculosis mycrobacterium can fester in 30 percent of showerheads.

Significant levels can mean trouble.

"It's possible for a shower to harbor this atypical bacteria," said Dr. Byron Glenn of Cape Urgent Care.

Dr. Glenn says it's possible NTM that leads to pulmonary disease could be lurking in your shower head. But he's more concerned about everything else in the breeding ground of your bathroom that could aggravate your system.

"When you talk about bathrooms there are nasty pathogens in the bathroom particularly in the toilet bowl," Dr. Glenn said. "The number one defense against all of this is cleaning," said Dr. Glenn.

As for Wright, she is due for more tests, and in the meantime taking the recommended steps to clean her shower head.

"I usually use vinegar and water because vinegars and acid will kill it," said Wright. "They also use bleach."

Professor Norman Pace who conducted the UC Boulder study says people often mistake warning signs.

He says what people think is soap scum or calcium deposits on their shower head, could be bacteria.

Pace feels NTM pulmonary disease may be under diagnosed.

Doctors in the Heartland say they see a steady stream of cases from around the area but haven't noticed an increase.

Remember you can be proactive by soaking your shower head with vinegar or bleach. Also suggested: using a shower head with a finer mist or just taking a bath.

You can also increase the temperature in your water heater to 140 degrees -- that will help kill bacteria.

Copyright 2012 KFVS. All rights reserved.

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Additional information

Updated:

Prevalence of Nontuberculous Mycobacterial Lung Disease in U.S. Medicare Beneficiaries (pdf) Opportunistic pathogens enriched in showerhead biofilms (pdf) More>>

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