Nothing’s more relaxing than a long soak in warm water following a tough day at the office. Foam up some bubble bath, select a favorite playlist, and simply let the hot water massage away all those fears and woes. But what would happen if we simply stayed put right there in the bathtub and didn’t budge? Is there a period of time when winding down gets dangerous? How long is too long when it comes to taking a bath?
First up, let’s note with caution that heat and water aren’t always our best bed fellows. In 2010, at the world Sauna Championships (yes such a tournament does exist), one of the finalists, Vladimir Ladyzhensiy died tragically of burns while competing with veteran rival Timo Kaukonen. “The temperature and the duration aren’t the worst parts; it’s the humidity with 0.5 litres of water tossed on the hot stones every 30 seconds,” said fellow Finnish sauna champion competitor after the event.
While no record seems to exist for length of time inside a bathtub, we do know that staying in the tub for more than a day would certainly make you wrinkly. Most people think that this wrinkly condition is because the body is simply absorbing too much water. But this is not really the case – the wrinkly skin phenomenon is actually our body trying to find a way to improve a grip in these new slippery aquatic conditions. In 2002, Tim Yarrow spent 10 days submerged in a small tank of water in a Johannesburg shopping mall. Yarrow beat a previous world record set in 1986 and had to sleep, eat and even use the bathroom all underwater. After the ordeal Yarrow had hands that looked like they belonged to a 200 year old, and images of his wrinkly record-breaking hands subsequently went viral on the internet.
Jerry Hall from Tennessee set the world record for the longest scuba dive, spending more than six days living on a platform 15 feet below the surface of South Holston Lake. He clocked up a total of 145 hours underwater and when he finally surfaced, his hands and feet were extremely shriveled. “I got cold and I don’t like to be cold,” Hall said when back ashore. “I’m hungry too. I’m ready to eat,” he added. Hall wasn’t short for entertainment as he had an underwater TV where he watched his favorite movies including “Planet of the Apes,” “True Grit”, and “Fast and Furious.” He also listened to music and played checkers with visiting divers.
In China, the government has been accused of taking political prisoners and leaving them submerged in water in a practice known as Chinese water torture. This Chinese water torture renders the victims unable to stand or have use of their limbs after immersion in water for a period of just a few days – suggesting once again that spending too much time in the bathtub might not be an altogether great idea.
But just what do we know of the science behind the dangers of staying in the bathtub long after the cows have come home? Dr. Fromowitz spoke with the Digg editorial team in an article on the subject. “In essence, prolonged immersion in water supersaturates the skin and leads to skin breakdown,” he said, “you will literally, waste away hanging out in the tub.” But this would all take a little time. You would have, to be fair, about two days in the bathtub before you’d form vesicles – that’s bubbles between the layers of skin – and following the onset of vesicles, your skin would slowly begin to separate until it began to actually peel away from itself like that of a banana. While the skin is peeling away, you would become subject to infection not just from that two-day-old water that by this point would have become a tepid stew of your own porous excretions, but also from the air around. After maybe a week, you’d be in a state of infection, peeling, bleeding, and you might be dead – if not from the infections and sores brought on by the inevitable exposure – then from blood clots that have built up and are preventing oxygen from flowing through the body, leaving you in no wonder as to why the Chinese use this method for torture. So be careful while you bathe, and try to cut that me time down to an hour at the most, as it is certainly true in this case that one can have too much of a good thing when it comes to laying in the tub.
So, what’s the longest you’ve ever spent in the bathtub? Let us know in the comments.