Hot Tub Safety for Kids

When it comes to hot tub use, most people know that small children shouldn't use hot tubs or spas because they're not able to dissipate the heat as much as adults. But the risk of drowning is an even greater risk for young children. In fact, the 2020 Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) pool and spa submersion report indicates that 75% of the fatal drownings and 76% of the emergency-department-treated nonfatal drowning injuries involved children under the age of 5.

With this information in mind, you may be wondering whether it's safe at all to allow your kids to get in the hot tub if you have one at home or are visiting a resort with a spa or hot tub. Unfortunately, there's no easy answer. Here's a closer look at the things you should be mindful of when considering whether or not a hot tub is safe for you and your family.

hot tub guidelines for grandparents to follow
Illustration by Emily Roberts, Verywell

Hot Tub Hazards

Neither the American Association of Pediatrics (AAP) nor the CPSC has issued specific guidelines for a hot tub or spa use by children. However, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) advises that children under age 5 should not use hot tubs. In addition, here are some other hazards that you should consider before allowing your kids to use a hot tub.

High Temperature

According to the Pool and Hot Tub Alliance (PHTA), most hot tubs are preset to reach 104 degrees, which can be extremely hot for a young person. In fact, high temperatures can result in a loss of consciousness which could result in drowning. Additionally, high temperatures can lead to heat stroke and possibly even death. If your considering allowing your kids to use a hot tub, make sure you turn the temperature down first.

Bacteria

Hot tub owners should always be knowledgeable and vigilant about maintaining the correct balance of chemicals to keep the tub safe and sanitary. A well-chlorinated hot tub will have a little odor, but if the smell is over-powering, this could indicate a maintenance issue and should be checked by a professional before used.

Allowing a hot tub to get dirty or not keeping up on the cleaning practices could result in bacteria and the spread of diseases. In fact, according to a report by the CDC there were more than 27,000 illnesses and eight deaths in 2018 linked to pools, hot tubs, and water playgrounds. Among the outbreaks that occurred, people experienced everything from gastrointestinal illnesses and Legionnaire's disease to hot tub rash and swimmer's ear. Additionally, your child should stay out of the water if they are sick or have diarrhea in order to reduce the risk of spreading illness.

There are test strips available at local hardware stores, which allow you to check the safety of the water. But you also can ask hot tub owners how often the chemical levels and pH levels are checked as well when the latest inspection took place. Likewise, the ties and straps on the hot tub should not be sticky or slippery.

Drowning

Of course, drowning is the most serious hazard connected with any body of water, including hot tubs. In fact, according to the AAP, drowning is the leading cause of injury death in U.S. children between the ages of 1 and 4 and the third leading cause of unintentional injury death in U.S. children and adolescents between the ages of 5 and 19.

To help prevent accidental drownings, hot tubs should be equipped with locking covers, and children should never be left unsupervised around them. What's more, hot tubs should be surrounded by fencing and inaccessible to young children.

Another drowning hazard is the entanglement of hair in the suction fitting of a hot tub. Drain covers that reduce the danger of hair entanglement are available, but children should be advised not to go underwater in a hot tub, or play in any way that would bring their hair near the drain cover.

Similarly, there is a danger of getting caught by the strong suction of a drain. Newer hot tubs are equipped with two outlets for each pump, reducing suction if one outlet is blocked. Finally, owners and users of hot tubs and spas should know the location of the cut-off switch so the pump can be turned off in an emergency.

Hot Tub Safety Rules

If you have questions about hot tubs, or if your child has a pre-existing medical condition, you should ask your child's pediatrician for advice about hot tub use. In general, children under the age of 5 should not use a hot tub due to the risk of overheating, dehydration, and drowning. For older children, here are some additional guidelines to consider.

  • Heat: If your children are going to be using a hot tub, the PHTA recommends turning the thermostat down to 98 degrees. However, children should be limited to 5 minutes at a time and should never play for more than 15 minutes.
  • Height: Children should not be allowed in hot tubs unless their heads are completely out of the water when they stand on the bottom of the tub. 
  • Hydration: Children (and adults) should avoid dehydration by drinking fresh water while using the hot tub. If anyone using the hot tub feels sleepy, nauseous, or dizzy, they should exit the hot tub immediately.
  • Immersion: It's safer for children to sit on benches or jump seats that allow partial immersion. In fact, it's recommended that children avoid complete immersion in a hot tub.

Hot Tub Safety on Vacation

If you're traveling, you should be aware that commercial establishments may not be as mindful as they should be about the safety and cleanliness of their spas. If you plan to use a hot tub on your trip, travel with a thermometer to check the water temperature. You also can bring along test strips, which are available online, at home improvement stores, and pool supply shops.

When on vacation, don't enter hot tubs with cloudy water or strong chemical smells. It's also important to review the basics of pool and hot tub etiquettes, like not swallowing the water or splashing. Share these water and hot tub safety tips with children before the journey.

A Word From Verywell

Hot tubs and pools are a wonderful way to relax and de-stress, but they pose risks to children. For this reason, at least one adult should be responsible for supervising the kids anytime you are around a hot tub or a pool.

This means being within touching distance of young children while in the water and having an eye on them at all times while outside the water. Likewise, you should refrain from allowing children under the age of 5 use a hot tub—even with adult supervision. It only takes a matter of seconds for an accident to morph into a disaster if you are not careful.

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7 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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