Is Your Shower Head Making You Sick?

Is Your Shower Head Making You Sick Infographic

This information has been reviewed and approved by Gwen A. Huitt, MD, MS (August 2017).



Summary: Is Your Shower Head Making You Sick? NTM Could Be The Answer

A disease called NTM may be spread through water from contaminated shower heads.


What is NTM?

  • NTM stands for nontuberculous mycobacteria
  • Bacteria similar to tuberculosis (TB)
  • Spread through environment, not person to person
  • Cure rate is only about 50%


Symptoms of NTM

  • Chronic or recurring cough
  • Fever
  • Weight loss
  • Lack of appetite
  • Night sweats
  • Loss of energy


Where is NTM found?

  • NTM bacteria are abundant in soil and water
  • NTM can live in the shower head - soap/calcium build-up may also contain NTM
  • Water droplets and steam in showers can carry the bacteria and be inhaled while showering
  • Soil particles containing NTM can be inhaled when soil is stirred


NTM Prevention

  • Clean your showerhead by soaking in vinegar or water
  • Replace showerheads periodically as needed
  • Set water heater to 140° (use caution to avoid scalding)
  • Remove the shower head completely
  • Take baths instead of showers
  • Avoid steam rooms, hot tubs, etc. where steam or droplets with bacteria particles could be inhaled
  • Wear a mask and gloves while gardening


Who can get NTM?

Anyone can get nontuberculous mycobacteria, but it mostly affects:

  • People with underlying lung disease (e.g., COPD, bronchiectasis)
  • Tall, thin women
  • 30,000 new NTM infections are diagnosed each year


Need Help or More Info?

Contact National Jewish Health


More Information on Nontuberculous Mycobacteria (NTM)


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