Health Library

Child Safety: Drowning Prevention in Pools and Hot Tubs

Overview

Most childhood drownings occur in swimming pools. When you go to public or private pools, make sure that your children are supervised closely. And make sure that they are familiar with pool safety rules.

Hot tubs and spas often are an overlooked drowning danger for children. A child can fall into the water and drown. Hair can get tangled in drains or jets. And body parts can get trapped.

Consider keeping hot tubs and spas off-limits to young children. Talk to your doctor before you allow children younger than age 5 to use them.

If you allow children in a hot tub or spa, take proper precautions and talk to your children about possible hazards.

If you have a pool or hot tub where you live, find out if the drains and other parts meet current safety standards. Check with the place where you bought the pool or hot tub, or ask a pool operator.

Pool safety

If you have a pool at your home, use these tips to help prevent drowning tragedies.

  • Get certified in CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation).
  • Look in the pool right away if a child is missing.

    Every second counts in drowning accidents.

  • Never let your child swim without an adult present.
  • Do not use inflatable toys or mattresses when young children are swimming in water above their waist.
  • Remove toys from the pool when they're not in use.

    Young children attracted to the toys can fall in when reaching for them.

  • Have any doors leading from the house to the pool fitted with an alarm.

    The alarm should sound anytime the door is opened unexpectedly.

Always keep the pool area secure to prevent drowning.

  • Install a power safety cover for when the pool isn't in use.

    This is a motor-powered device that acts as a barrier over the water.

  • Keep rescue equipment by the pool.

    This includes a life ring with a rope and a safety hook.

  • Have a phone nearby to call for help in an emergency.
  • Make sure that above-ground pools aren't accessible to children.

    Secure steps and ladders to prevent an unsupervised child from climbing into the pool.

  • Install underwater pool alarms that can be heard inside the house and in nearby areas.

    Alarms that can be used with pool covers are the best choice.

  • Install fences and walls around the entire pool.

    Fences should be at least 4 ft (1.2 m) high, with self-closing and self-latching gates. Latches should be out of a young child's reach.

Hot tub safety

There are things you can do to help protect children from an accident or drowning related to hot tubs and spas.

  • Closely supervise children around a hot tub or spa.

    Never leave a child alone. If you get out of the hot tub or spa, have them get out with you.

  • Have a phone nearby to call for help in an emergency.
  • Don't allow underwater play in a hot tub.

    Hot tub and spa jets and drains can suck hair in, trapping a child underwater. Explain to children that hot tubs and spas aren't swimming pools or places for active play.

  • Know where the pump cutoff switch is located so you can turn it off in an emergency.
  • Keep a locked safety cover on the hot tub or spa when it's not in use.

    If a drain cover is missing or broken, shut down the spa until the drain cover is repaired or replaced.

  • Don't let the water temperature get above 104°F (40°C) in hot tubs and spas.

    Drowning has occurred from extremely hot water. Hot water can cause drowsiness and loss of consciousness. Heatstroke is another danger.

  • Install a door alarm, a window alarm, or both to alert you if an unattended child wanders into the hot tub area.

Credits

Current as of: September 20, 2021

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
John Pope MD - Pediatrics
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine