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
- 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
- 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)