When Can Grandchildren Use a Hot Tub or Spa?

Too-High Temperature Is Just One of the Hazards

Two Girls in Hot Tub
Mirek Weichsel / Getty Images

You've probably heard that small children should not use hot tubs or spas because they are less able than adults to dissipate the heat. If you have a hot tub or spa or are visiting a resort with such facilities, you may be wondering whether it is safe to allow your grandchildren to get in. Unfortunately, there's no easy answer.

Some Guidelines for Hot Tub Use

Neither the American Association of Pediatrics nor the Consumer Product Safety Commission has issued specific guidelines for hot tub or spa use by children.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) advises that children under 5 should not use hot tubs. 

Here are some general guidelines, but you may want to consult your grandchild's pediatrician for advice geared to your particular circumstances.

  • Infants and toddlers should not use a hot tub at all due to the risk of overheating or dehydration.
  • Older children can be allowed in for short periods of time if the temperature has been carefully checked.
  • Most hot tubs are preset to reach 104 degrees, but 102 is a safer setting, and 98 is even better if children are going to be using the facility.
  • Recommendations for time limits for children range from 5 to 20 minutes, depending upon the age of the child and the temperature of the water.

These recommendations are in line with advice published by The Association of Pool and Spa Professionals (APSP). This organization also adds these recommendations:

  • 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. 
  • It's safer for young children to avoid immersing the whole body in the hot tub. Many spas have benches or jump seats that allow for partial immersion.
  • Children (and adults) should avoid dehydration by drinking water while using the hot tub.

Other Hot Tub Hazards

Other, even more serious hazards are associated with hot tub use.

  • Drowning is the most serious hazard connected with any body of water, including hot tubs. Hot tubs should be equipped with locking covers. Children should never be left unsupervised around hot tubs.
  • Entanglement of hair in the suction fitting of a hot tub is another hazard that can result in drowning. Drain covers that reduce the danger of hair entanglement are available, but children should not be allowed to go underwater in a hot tub or play in any way that would bring their hair near the drain cover.
  • A similar danger is getting caught by the strong suction of a drain. Newer hot tubs are equipped with two outlets for each pump, reducing the suction if one outlet is blocked. Grandparents who own older hot tubs should consider buying a newer hot tub with two outlets. Dome-shaped drain covers also are available to reduce the suction that occurs with flat drain covers.
  • Owners of hot tubs and spas should know the location of the cut-off switch so the pump can be turned off in an emergency.
  • Of course hot tub owners should be knowledgeable and vigilant about maintaining the correct balance of chemicals to keep the tub safe and sanitary.

Hot-Tubbing Away From Home

If you are traveling with grandchildren, you should be aware that commercial establishments may not be as heedful as they should be about the safety of their spas.

If you plan to use a hot tub on your trip, travel with a thermometer for checking the temperature. Also take along test strips. These can be purchased online, at home improvement stores and at pool supply stores. Do not go into a hot tub  or allow your grandchildren in a hot tub if the water is cloudy or if there is a strong chemical smell. It's also a bad idea, especially when in a different country, for the grandchildren to swallow the water from the hot tub or spa. 

Learn more about water safety for children and about hot tub safety.