How Long is it Safe to Stay in a Hot Tub?

I love a long soak in our hot tub. But sometimes it’s easy to lose track of time, so I’ve wondered how long is it safe to stay in a hot tub?

I decided to research that and here’s what I learned:

At 104° F (40° C) it’s advisable to not stay in a hot tub longer than 15 minutes. But, lower temperatures can lead to longer soak times. But time isn’t the only consideration. Always ensure proper hydration, water chemistry, and take precautions for young children and the elderly to avoid illness or injury.

But there’s a great deal more to know about hot tubs and safety.

So in this article, we’re diving deep (well, as deep as a hot tub at least) into the world of hot tub safety. We’ll explore how long is too long and what the effects of overexposure are.

But, we’ll also look at how young is too young to use the hot tub, and what some of the factors are that can extend the time you are safely able to soak.

Specifically, though, we’re answering the question of how long is it safe to stay in a hot tub?

Let’s get going!

Confused about hot tub chemicals and not sure which ones are the best?

I take the confusion out of it in a recent article. I get into not only which chemicals you need, but also which ones you don’t that are a waste of money. But I also explore which chemicals are best for sensitive skin and how to avoid hot tub rash.

So just click the link to read that now on my site.

What happens if you stay in a hot tub for too long?

There are several issues and symptoms that can come up if you overstay your welcome in a hot tub.

Ultimately, there’s a reason that many experts recommend limiting your soak to no more than 15-30 minutes. The range is, of course, because the temperature of the water affects how long you can safely sit. We’ll get into that below as well.

Here’s a handy chart showing the different issues, symptoms, and solutions:

Issue Symptom Action to Take
Dehydration
  • Unquenchable thirst
  • Dizzyness
  • Sleepy
  • Not able to urinate
  • Dark-colored urine
  • Disoriented
Safely get out and slowly drink water in a seated position. Consult a doctor if you see persistent or concerning symptoms
Overheating
  • Headache
  • Dizzy
  • Sweating excessively or no sweating
  • Low pulse
  • Itchy or tingling skin
Safely get out and slowly drink water in a seated position. Avoid going from the super hot of the hot tub to a supercooled indoor space; it’s better to gradually lower the body temp. If symptoms get worse, call 911
Skin rash Officially called hot tub folliculitis, a skin infection of the hair follicles. Symptoms are most commonly itchy red bumps on the torso Depending on the severity, this can be caused by a pH level that is too high (above 7.8) or improperly sanitized water which has allowed bacteria levels to get too high. Get out, check water chemistry and adjust and balance before allowing anyone to use the hot tub
A drop in blood pressure
  • Dizzy
  • Feeling faint
  • Blurry vision
  • Confusion
  • Nausea or vomiting
Safely get out and slowly drink water in a seated position. If symptoms get worse, call 911
Nausea or vomiting Can be a symptom of a few of the above issues Safely get out and slowly drink water in a seated position. Consult a doctor if you see persistent or concerning symptoms
Dizzyness Can be a symptom of a few of the above issues Safely get out and slowly drink water in a seated position. Consult a doctor if you see persistent or concerning symptoms

Hot tub temperatures are a tricky thing.

People love that super hot water, but don’t always realize some of the possible dangers that come with that.

In a recent article, I examine all of the most popular hot tub temperatures and some of the pros and cons that go with that. What really surprised me was just how much longer you can soak by just dropping it a couple of degrees.

Just click the link to read that now on my site.

What affects how long you can sit in a hot tub?

There are a ton of different factors that affect whether it’s safe to stay in a hot tub or not. So here, we’re getting in-depth into each of those factors:

Your age

Generally speaking, young kids and the elderly need to exercise caution both with temperature and soak times.

Personally, I don’t like my kids to be in water that is 104° F (40° C). But if your kids do use it at that temp, the Association of Pool and Spa Professionals says that kids under 12 should not soak longer than 5 minutes.

At the temperature I prefer for my hot tub, 98° F (36.67° C), about 15 minutes work for my older girls (pre-teens). Of course, never let your kids use your hot tub unsupervised.

For the elderly, there are concerns about infections from improperly treated water. While the infections could affect everyone, some elderly may be more prone to infections and the effects of the infections can be more severe.

Other concerns for the elderly could be heart conditions, high blood pressure, as well as falling dangers getting in or out of the hot tub, according to Senior Safety Advice.

Pregnancy

Pregnant women should avoid hot tub use completely in water that’s at or above 102° F (38.88° C). The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends that pregnant women never let their core body temperature rise above 102.2º F.

Even with temperatures lower than that, it’s best to limit soaks to no more than 10 minutes, according to AmericanPregnancy.org.

Some studies have shown an increased risk of birth defects in babies of women who had an increased body temperature during the first trimester of pregnancy.

The Temp of the Hot Tub

Many hot tubs are factory programmed to be at 104° F (40° C).

At that temp, in most cases, you should limit your soak to about 15 minutes. Personally, I prefer a longer soak, and I have 3 kids who love the hot tub too. So I set mine to 98° F (36.67° C).

Setting it to that low, I can easily soak safely for 30 minutes or so. But even between 100-102, you’re pretty safe soaking for at least 20 minutes.

How Deep Are You Submerged?

Often when we are relaxing in the hot tub, we’re in up to our necks. If that sounds familiar, then just know that the more of you underwater, the shorter the soak time.

What I like to do is alternate between being up to my neck, and then sitting up higher where much of my upper torso is out of the water. Some even prefer to get out and sit on the edge and dip the feet in to cool down a little. If you do that, just use caution to ensure you don’t slip off (either forward or backward).

Can a hot tub kill you?

Yes, is the short answer, but only under some fairly extreme conditions.

So what are the different ways using a hot tub could be fatal? Let’s explore some of the most common (again, understanding that these instances are very rare):

Bacteria & Viruses

Bacteria and viruses can easily live in water. While hot tub rash (officially called hot tub folliculitis) is somewhat common; it isn’t likely to cause serious illness or death.

The biggest concern with hot tubs and infection is with Legionnaire’s Disease, also called legionellosis. This deadly disease is a type of pneumonia caused by Legionella bacteria.

Every year between 8,000 – 18,000 people in the US get the disease (most cases not from hot tubs). However, it does affect certain groups of people more than others, such as:

  • People with compromised immune systems
  • Smokers
  • The elderly
  • People with lung diseases

It is usually spread by breathing in the bacteria. It originally became widely known in the 1970s after bacteria in an air conditioning system at a hotel killed members of a convention of the American Legion. That’s where it got its name.

Symptoms of Legionnaire’s Disease include:

  • High fever
  • Cough
  • Headache
  • Aches and pains
  • Being short of breath

How to avoid it:

First and foremost, just check and balance your water chemistry weekly. That is the best way to ensure no one ever gets sick in your hot tub.

Especially ensure your bromine or chlorine levels are good and that you have proper pH.

Then, make sure you are on top of your filter maintenance and changing the water in your tub regularly.

How often should you change the water in your hot tub?

It depends on a few factors, but a range of 3-5 months is about right. I break it all down in a recent article, including a way to drain your hot tub in under 15 minutes.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

Overexposure

Overexposure simply means you’ve been in the hot tub too long.

That can lead to:

  • Headache
  • Dizzy
  • Sweating excessively or no sweating
  • Low pulse
  • Itchy or tingling skin

Obviously, if it’s severe enough, that could possibly lead to death.

But it’s much more common for other issues to happen because of the overexposure. Such as: slipping and falling getting out, severe dehydration, or losing consciousness and drowning.

Using under the influence

It should come as no surprise that all the experts say to not use drugs or alcohol when using a hot tub. That’s because when under the influence it’s easy to:

  • Pass out and drown
  • Slip and fall getting in or out (and causing serious injury or death)
  • Become severely dehydrated (caused both by alcohol and (obviously) not drinking enough water)
  • Get overheated

It’s probably also not a surprise that people have been doing just that since the 1970s at least.

So if we accept that for many people it’s a given that they’ll at least have a drink or 2 while using a hot tub, which I’ve done myself, we have to be safe about it.

Of course, I have to add that you should also drink responsibly, never use a hot tub alone, and go for shorter soaks when under the influence. Also, ensure you are safely able to get in and out of the hot tub to avoid slip and falls.

But some of the best tips would also include:

  • Drinking plenty of water to avoid dehydration
  • Lowering the temp of your hot tub to 102° F (38.88° C) (or lower)
  • Use a kitchen timer to help keep track of time and when it’s time to sit out for a bit

What age is safe for hot tubs?

Used correctly, with properly balanced water and clean filters with a reasonable temperature, hot tubs can be great for almost everyone.

That being said, there are some good rules to follow and guidelines.

As I mentioned above, care needs to be taken for the elderly. Not because of their age, but because of some of the conditions that frequently come with old age.

Sometimes the elderly may have compromised immune systems which brings up concerns about infections from improperly treated water.

While infections can impact all of us, anyone with a comprised immune system may be more prone to getting infections. Plus the effects of those infections can be worse.

Other concerns for the elderly could be:

  • Heart conditions
  • High blood pressure
  • Slip and fall dangers

It’s also worth stating that the older the person, the more likely they are to be on one or more prescription medications. So checking with a doctor about any risks of using a hot tub is a must.

Fight infections in hot tub water not only by balancing the chemistry but also in regular filter maintenance.

I have a recent article that breaks down exactly when and how to do that. You don’t have to change your filter super often, but there’s 1 step you have to do each month to keep those bacteria and viruses at bay.

Luckily, it just takes a couple of minutes. Click the link to read it on my site.

Can a 6-month-old go in a hot tub?

No is the best answer here.

At the very young age of 6 months, babies are still adjusting their internal temperatures and their body is still figuring out how to regulate temperature.

With many hot tubs set to 104° F (40° C), that’s just way too hot for a 6-month-old who could easily become overheated.

Even set to a lower temp, I would avoid hot tub use with a newborn or even a 6-month-old.

Can my 18-month-old go in a hot tub?

The CDC recommends no hot tub use for any child under the age of 5.

That being said, my daughter, currently 23 months, loves our hot tub and has been using it just fine for several months as did her older sisters (now tweens) when they were her age.

However, I don’t keep our tub super hot.

I keep ours set to 98° F (36.67° C), which is far less likely to cause issues with dehydration or overexposure. I also strictly limit how long she stays in.

Then, of course, I also monitor the water chemistry like a hawk to make sure bromine and pH levels especially, are correct.

So make your own choice, consult your pediatrician as what I do is my own choice and should not be seen as a recommendation.

Is it bad to drink alcohol in a hot tub?

As I mentioned above, most experts say to never use a hot tub when drinking alcohol, or using drugs (legal or otherwise). It’s not the drugs or alcohol per se that cause the problems, but rather how they could lead to you:

  • Passing out and drowning
  • Slipping and falling
  • Becoming severely dehydrated (caused both by alcohol and (obviously) not drinking enough water)
  • Getting overheated

Many people do, of course, enjoy a cocktail, at least, while soaking in their hot tub.

So if we assume many of us are going to that despite the inherent dangers, let’s be smart about it:

If under the influence, make sure to:

  • Drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration
  • Lower the temp of your hot tub to 102° F (38.88° C) (or lower)
  • Use a kitchen timer to help keep track of time and when it’s time to sit out for a bit

I’m in no way endorsing or suggesting you be under the influence of anything when using your hot tub. Rather, I’m making suggestions for how to be safer if you choose to do so.

Always make your own choices and when in doubt, consult your doctor.

What are the dangers of hot tubs?

We’ve covered a lot of ground in this post, but to sum up some of the greatest dangers of using a hot tub, they would include:

  • Overheating (can lead to dizziness, drop in blood pressure, low pulse)
  • Skin rash
  • Bacterial or viral infections (Legionaire’s Disease being the worst)
  • Dehydration
  • Slip and fall accidents getting in or out
  • Amplified dangers when using under the influence
  • Added dangers for the very young and very old

But these are all easily dismissed by following some simply guidelines.

Never use a hot tub alone, set the temperature no higher than 104° F (40° C), and ideally even lower. Limit soak time at that temp to no more than 15 minutes.

And of course, stay on top of water chemistry and filter maintenance.

Dehydration can sneak up on you when using a hot tub.

So it’s important to know the symptoms and some of the steps to take to avoid it altogether. In a recent article, I break down everything you need to know about hot tubs and dehydration, including the surprising truth about how much water you should be drinking each day.

Just click the link to read it now on my site.

Did I cover everything you wanted to know about how long it’s safe to sit in a hot tub?

In this article, we took a look at hot tub safety.

We explored time, temperature, and some of the dangers that happen when those things aren’t kept in check. Then we answered some of the top questions surrounding health issues, drinking alcohol while using the tub, and how young (or old) is too young (or old) to use a hot tub.

Ultimately, we answered the question of how long is it safe to stay in a hot tub?


Photo credits which require attribution:

IMG_2112 by Joe Loong is licensed under CC2.0

Jeff Campbell

Jeff Campbell is a husband, father, martial artist, budget-master, Disney-addict, musician, hot tub lover, and recovering foodie having spent over 2 decades as a leader for Whole Foods Market.

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