Most people have heard that small children shouldn't use hot tubs or spas because they're not able to dissipate the heat as much as adults. If you have a hot tub at home or are visiting a resort spa, you may be wondering whether it's safe or not to allow your grandchildren to get in. Unfortunately, there's no easy answer.
Neither the American Association of Pediatrics nor the Consumer Product Safety Commission has issued specific guidelines for hot tub or spa use by children.
However, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) advises that children under five should not use hot tubs.
Guidelines for Children Using Hot Tubs
First and foremost, you may want to consult with your grandchild's pediatrician for advice geared to your particular circumstances. In general, infants and toddlers should not use a hot tub at all due to the risk of overheating or dehydration. Older children, however, 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; 98 degrees is even better if children are going to be using it. Allow children to play for five to 20 minutes, depending on age and water temperature.
The former and following recommendations are in line with safety advice published by The Association of Pool and Spa Professionals (APSP):
- 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 their whole body in the hot tub. Many spas have benches or jump seats that allow partial immersion.
- Children (and adults) should avoid dehydration by drinking water while using the hot tub.
Hot Tub Hazards
There are additional hazards, some of which that are even more serious than already mentioned, that are associated with hot tub use.
Of course, drowning is the most serious hazard connected with any body of water, including hot tubs. Hot tubs should be equipped with locking covers, and children should never be left unsupervised around them. Another hazard is the entanglement of hair in the suction fitting of a hot tub, which can also result in drowning. 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. Thus, grandparents who own older hot tubs should consider buying a newer one with two outlets. Dome-shaped drain covers also are available, which will reduce the suction that occurs with flat drain covers.
Finally, 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. Additionally, hot tub owners should always 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're traveling with your 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 to check the water temperature. You can also bring along test strips, which are available online, at home improvement stores, and pool supply shops.
When on vacation, don't allow yourself or your grandchildren to 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. Regardless, you can learn more about water safety and hot tub safety, sharing tips with your grandchildren before your journey.