Preventing Legionnaire’s Disease in your Holiday Home

This article highlights the risks of Legionnaire’s disease and how to prevent Legionella bacteria from affecting the guests in your holiday home.

Legionella is the bacteria responsible for Legionnaire’s disease and the milder form, Pontiac disease. Legionnaire’s disease causes a type of pneumonia which can result in serious illness and long-term health problems. While it should be taken very seriously, it is simple to make your holiday home safe if you are firstly aware of the problem and follow a few simple steps to prevent an outbreak.

Legionnaire’s disease is an ever-present risk for holiday home owners. Legionnaire’s disease, so named because of its discovery in 1976 at a meeting of the American Legion in the USA, is largely transmitted in droplets of moisture in the air. It can develop wherever there is water at the right temperature and organic matter to fuel the bacteria’s growth. 

Identifying Legionnaire’s disease

It is important to be able to spot Legionnaire’s disease should you be unfortunate enough to suffer an outbreak. According to the UK government advice, early symptoms include muscle aches, tiredness, headaches, dry cough and fever. Sometimes diarrhoea occurs and confusion may develop. Legionnaires’ disease can cause long term health problems. While untreated Legionnaire’s disease can be fatal, prompt treatment with antibiotics is usually enough to cure the disease. Pontiac fever (the milder form of Legionnaire’s) usually clears up on its own but always seek medical advice.

Why are hot tubs a Legionella risk?

This guide to preventing Legionnaire’s disease in your holiday home will concentrate on hot tubs. They are the most common source of Legionnaire’s disease in this setting for several reasons:

  • They contain warm water
  • There is a complicated pipe system with elements like filters, in which water might sit
  • Air is pumped through water creating a spray of aerosol droplets
  • They may contain organic matter
  • They are open to the elements
  • There is a small ratio of water to people when it is occupied

All of the above factors make the hot tub an ideal environment for the legionella bacteria to get a foothold and to spread.

This guide concentrates on hot tubs because of the risk they pose and their popularity in holiday homes. Differing pool spa systems have greater or lesser levels of complexity, different cleaning regimes and varying filter technology. The general recommendations here might apply to all types of spa pool but please consult the manufacturer for advice on your particular type and model.

Legionella contamination in other water systems

Be aware of the risks of contamination in other water systems. Showers, water-cooled air-conditioning systems and drinking water coolers all need to be cleaned and disinfected regularly to prevent them becoming a source of contamination. Anything with standing water needs to be drained, cleaned and disinfected often, and especially after a long absence from your holiday home. More information from the UK government on these potential risks can be found here https://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/books/hsg282.htm

Using your hot tub safely 

Because Legionnaire’s disease needs warmth, water and organic matter to grow and spread, and it can be transmitted from person to person, it is important to follow hot tub safety guidelines. For example:

  • Shower and toilet first
  • Consume food and drink elsewhere
  • Keep your head above water
  • Supervise all children in and around the hot tub and do not allow children under 4 years of age, or those unable to keep their head above the water level when sitting, in the hot tub.
  • Do not use the hot tub after a heavy meal or under the influence of alcohol or sedatives
  • Seek medical advice if pregnant, have health problems or immunosuppressed
  • Avoid sun cream or other skin creams when using the hot tub
  • Stick to the capacity of your tub – one person per seat
  • Only stay for the time recommended by the manufacturer or for fifteen minutes per session, whichever is the lesser.

If you are letting your holiday home and hot tub to guests, make all of this plain to them in signs or in their welcome pack information. You may be nervous about killjoy signs and messages scaring your guests with legionella. Instead, try and word any signs in terms of getting the most out of the health-giving benefits of your wonderful hot tub.

Maintaining your hot tub

Below is a general guide to maintaining your hot tub to prevent Legionnaire’s disease. However, do consult your manufacturer’s instructions.

At least twice daily depending on risk assessment and usage:

  • Check water clarity
  • Determine pH value, and residual disinfectant

Daily:

  • Check if dosing system is working
  • Check chemical reservoir level
  • Check any automatic systems are operating correctly

Check daily and clean as appropriate but as a minimum at water replacement:

  • Clean the water-line
  • Clean overflow channels and skimmers
  • Clean spa-pool surround

At water replacement:

Replace cartridge filter with a cleaned cartridge

  • Inspect strainers and grilles

Between each group of users or weekly, whichever is shorter:

  • Drain spa pool, clean whole system including
  • strainers and refill
  • Check, clean, disinfect and dry filter cartridge

Weekly:

Inspect accessible pipework and jets and

  • clean as necessary
  • Clean and disinfect airlines

Monthly:

  • Disinfect flexible hoses
  • Clean input air filter
  • Disinfectant/pH controller
  • clean electrode and check calibration

Quarterly:

  • Microbiological testing

As appropriate:

  • Full chemical test dependent on water quality
  • Record incidents

For advice on all other types of spa pool, take a look at the Health and Safety Executive’s guidance here.

Where there are five or more employees, the law requires that the significant findings of the risk assessment must be recorded. If there are fewer than five employees there is no legal requirement to record anything.

Also, if you are letting out your holiday home to guests you have a duty under the health and safety at work legislation (HSW Act) to keep records of your maintenance of a hot tub. The HSW Act does not apply to the private owners of spa pools and hot tubs installed in a holiday park unit where there is no financial gain and they are for the exclusive use of the owner, family and occasional guests. To ensure its safe use, the spa pool or hot tub should be used and maintained in accordance with the manufacturers’ instructions.

The following links provide further information about preventing Legionnaire’s disease

If you suspect an outbreak of Legionnaire’s disease, seek medical help immediately.

This is a marketing article from My Holiday Home Insurance, specialist providers of insurance for holiday homes, leisure homes, leisure lodges and static caravans. Our team of experienced advisers are always happy to help, so to speak to us about your insurance requirements,  call our Northampton office on freephone 0800 988 0890.