Whirlpool baths are safer for adults than for kids.

Whirlpool Tub Risks for Children

by Sharon Perkins

Hot tubs are supposed to be relaxing havens for adults, not for the small fry. However, where grownups go, kids want to follow. Keeping your little people out of the whirlpool or hot tub may not be easy, but consider making the tub a no-kid zone; hot tubs really aren't good for the under-5 crowd, for several reasons.


Whirlpool tubs in the bathroom pose the same risk as any other inside tub for kids -- the risk of drowning. Hot tubs are generally much smaller than pools, which might make them seem safer, but kids can drown in any body of water. Hot tubs are often fairly deep; if a preschooler falls in, he'll probably be in over his head -- literally. In kids under age 6, near-drowning accounted for more than 66 percent of hot tub or spa injuries, according to a Nationwide Children's Hospital study. Never leave kids unattended in a tub of any kind, not even for a moment.


Heat feels amazing on achy adult muscles, but a little heat goes a long way with kids, who can't keep their cool as well as adults can. Unlike the family swimming pool, whirlpool tubs are generally heated to around 104 degrees Fahrenheit, and that's as high as they should ever go. Temperatures over 110 degrees Fahrenheit can cause anyone -- adult or kid -- to overheat, the Consumer Product Safety Commission warns. Overheating can lead to drowsiness or even passing out in the water. Set the timer if you let your kids in the whirlpool and make them get out after 10 to 15 minutes, Nationwide Children's Hospital recommends.


You don't want your little water bunny to get sick from hanging out in the hot tub. Some bacterial nasties, including Pseudomonas aeruginosa, love the heat and find the aerated water an invigorating place to multiply. If your little one spends time underwater, this bacteria can cause ear infections; a rash called folliculitis can infect his skin. Even more seriously, in rare cases, kids can develop meningitis from P. aeruginosa. As many as 94 to 100 percent of whirlpools contain this bacteria, according to a 2009 University of Texas article published in Reviews of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology. Mold, mildew and other bacteria can also lurk in your whirlpool's circulation pipes..


Parents often overlook one potentially disastrous risks of whirlpools -- entrapment in the drains and jets inside the tubs. Kids with long hair are particularly at risk, but other body parts can also become trapped in these small areas. When Miss Water Rat is showing off her newfound skills at holding her breath under water, her hair could become entangled in a drain or jet, preventing her from getting back to the surface. Teach your kids to keep fingers and toes away from drains and not to go under the water, especially if they have long hair. Newer drain covers are designed to prevent this type of accident; have a professional do a safety check on your tub. Know where the switch is to shut off the pump in case of entrapment.

About the Author

A registered nurse with more than 25 years of experience in oncology, labor/delivery, neonatal intensive care, infertility and ophthalmology, Sharon Perkins has also coauthored and edited numerous health books for the Wiley "Dummies" series. Perkins also has extensive experience working in home health with medically fragile pediatric patients.

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