Children in hot tubs – is it dangerous?
When my children were young, many years ago, I can remember telling my husband; “they’re not just little adults, you know…”.
Especially for children under 5 years old, with bodies still growing, a hot tub could be unhealthy or possibly dangerous.
The first problem with children using hot tubs involves their ability to regulate temperature and the possibility for hyperthermia, or overheating very quickly, in a spa that is heated to over 100°.
The second issue with kids in a hot tub are concerns of bacterial infection, by absorbing pathogens through the skin, ears, eye, mouth and airways.
And third, the most important reason – is that unsupervised access by children under 5 has resulted in hundreds of drowning incidents by children under 5 years old.
Let’s take a look to see what health experts have to say about children in hot tubs.
- CDC says: “Exclude children less than 5 years of age from using hot tubs.”
- Red Cross says: “Children under 5 should not use a hot tub.”
- APSP says: “No young child should be allowed in a hot tub until they can stand on the bottom and have their head remain completely out of the water.”
- AAP says: “Use a rigid, lockable cover on a hot tub, spa, or whirlpool, or fence in all 4 sides as you would for a swimming pool”
- Mayo Clinic says: “Young children can quickly become overheated in a hot tub or spa.”
- CPSC says: “Hot tubs pose a drowning risk to children and an overheating risk for young children.”
- MHP says: “Hot tubs are too hot for young children, may have high bacteria, and the drain in the tub can trap children.”
The Problems with Children in Hot Tubs
HIGH TEMPERATURES: Young children have skinny little bodies with thin skin. They absorb heat much more rapidly than adults, and can become overheated in just minutes in a spa at 104°, which can lead to dizziness, nausea or even unconsciousness. Children under the age of five heat up four times faster than adults, and also struggle to breathe the very hot and humid (steamy) air coming off of the water. Children older than five should limit exposure to hot water, both by reducing spa temperatures to 100° or less, and limiting soaking time to under 10 minutes.
EXPOSURE TO BACTERIA: In a public spa or hot tub, you never know if the water is sanitary, and if the spa is heavily used – its’ probably not. My advice is to never allow children to use a public spa, where they can be exposed to mycobacteria and pseudomonas or the parasite cryptosporidium. Skin infections, ear infections, or even respiratory infections are possible with adults and children, but children are more susceptible to attack. In a private hot tub or spa – assuming that your spa is not overused and is carefully maintained, and everyone showers fully before using the hot tub – the risk of bacteria exposure may be less. However, sickness can still occur if too many people are in the spa, or if the child stays in too long, or goes underwater, allowing exposure through nose, ear, eyes and mouth. Using the air blower in a spa can produce more aerosol bacteria, released as the bubbles reach the surface.
DROWNING / NEAR DROWNING: A spa or hot tub should always be secured by a locking spa cover, which will make it unlikely that a young child can gain access. Children older than five, working as a team, can manage to remove a spa cover – I can tell you from experience! A hot tub in the home or backyard can be every bit as dangerous as a swimming pool, and should be regarded as such. Drowning can occur from a bump on the head, overheating or from becoming entrapped or suctioned to the spa drain outlet. Teach your children to never use a spa or hot tub without constant adult supervision.
If you MUST allow your Children in a Hot Tub
The hard part is – kids LOVE hot tubs, and it’s a magnet for them. They are drawn to it because it’s close to their size, like a mini-pool, and for kids like mine, if you don’t let them do it while you are watching, they’re going to do it while you are not watching. If you really want to allow children older than 5 to use your private / home hot tub, here are some sensible rules to make it safer.
- Everyone Shower before using spa
- Turn down temperature below 100°
- Limit soaking time to under 10 minutes
- Keep heads above water at all times
- No more than 3-4 kids at a time
- Constant adult spa-side supervision
- Have warm towels and cool drinks ready
Hot Tub Works