Hot tubs offer homeowners a fun and restorative way to relax and more people are finding ways to incorporate them into their homes. But while hot tubs gain popularity, parents need to understand the safety and health risks associated with their use, and learn the proper steps to take when allowing their children to use their home spa.

Consider the most common risks involving children and spas, and how to avoid them:

Slipping

Although children are often excited at the thought of climbing into the hot tub, it is important that parents do not allow their children to run near the spa. Accidental falls due to a slippery floor can cause serious injuries. That’s why establishing house rules for spa use, such as forbidding running near the hot tub, can be incredibly useful in preventing harmful injuries to children.

In addition to establishing firm rules, we also recommend that parents install slip-resistant flooring around the spa area to keep children, and all hot tub users safe.

Drowning

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), drowning remains the second-leading cause of unintentional injury-related death for children under the age of 14. To prevent drowning, multiple preventative measures can be taken by parents, including refusing to allow their children to use the hot tub until they are at least 5 years old, keeping his or her head above the water’s surface and also, teaching the child how to swim.

One of the biggest mistakes parents can make is allowing their child to use the hot tub at too young of an age, and neglecting to maintain constant supervision while children use the tub. Adult supervision should remain constant for a child of any age, and by staying vigilant, parents can easily keep their children safe.

Investing in a locked hot tub cover to prevent child drownings is another wise step parents can take. These covers may cost a few hundred dollars, but they can save a child’s life. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) also recommends adding additional layers of protection between children and the spa by building a fence, which can substantially reduce the number of child drowning cases.

Hair and body entrapment

Another cause of children drowning in hot tubs is the entrapment of hair and body parts in suction pumps. Too often, children play in hot tubs, submerge their heads beneath the water’s surface, and place their fingers and toes too close to suction pumps resulting in their hair or body parts getting stuck. Prior to allowing their children to enter the hot tub, parents must verify that all drains are covered in compliance with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) standards. Recently manufactured spas and tubs are equipped with fail-safe mechanisms that are designed to prevent entrapment. Once in the hot tub, parents need to make sure their children keep their heads above water at all times. In addition, parents should ensure any child’s long hair is secured tightly before entering the spa.

hot tub child safety

Heat stroke, fatigue and dehydration

Since high spa temperatures can cause fatigue, heat stroke, and dehydration—all of which can lead to unconsciousness or drowning—the CPSC requires spa temperatures remain at 104 degrees Fahrenheit or lower. Children are at a higher risk for heat-related illnesses as their bodies absorb heat more quickly than adults. When possible, parents should consider turning down the spa temperature before allowing their children to enter the hot tub.

Another way parents can regulate their child’s body temperature in the spa environment is limiting the amount of time their child spends in the hot tub. One of the most common safety issues is overuse of the spa-which means staying in past the recommended 10 to 15 minute time limit. A child’s body is not suited for long exposure to spa temperatures, making it wise for parents to implement another “house rule” that sets a time limit on hot tub use.

Water-related illnesses

Similar to the way pool owners maintain proper chemical and disinfectant levels for pool water, spa owners also need to practice proper maintenance for hot tubs to prevent water-related illnesses like hot tub rash and upper respiratory infections. High water temperatures encourage the growth of unhealthy microorganisms, making proper maintenance of spa water a primary concern for parents.

In addition, many parents often make the common mistake of not checking chemical levels regularly and hot water temperatures cause the disinfectant levels to drop quickly below recommended levels. The CDC recommends that spa owners test their spa water regularly through the use of spa water test strips. According to the CDC, hot tubs should have a pH level of 7.2 to 7.8, and disinfectant levels of 1 to 3 ppm for free chlorine (DPD Tablet #1) and 2 to 5 ppm for bromine.

Ultimately, parents need to educate their children on proper spa use, create house rules for the hot tub, and explain to children that hot tub use is not the same as a pool. But first and foremost we want to remind parents to remain vigilant, never leave children unsupervised, and never allow a child’s fun to override good judgment.