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Hot Tub Injuries on the Rise

Nonfatal Spa-Related Injuries Increased by 160% From 1990 to 2007

By Caroline Wilbert
WebMD Health News

Reviewed By Louise Chang, MD

Nov. 5, 2009 -- Relaxing in a backyard hot tub may be fun, but potential dangers lurk. A new study shows that as the popularity of hot tubs has increased, so has the number of injuries.

Researchers analyzed emergency room records from 1990 until 2007. During that period, the number of nonfatal hot tub, whirlpool, and spa-related injuries increased by 160%, from about 2,500 in 1990 to more than 6,600 in 2007.

Most injuries happened to people who were aged 17 and older, though some of the serious injuries, including near-drownings, were more likely to involve young children. Overall, the most common injury was a laceration. Body parts most affected were the lower extremities and the head. The most common ways people injured themselves were through slips and falls.

"Although some steps have been taken to make hot tubs safer, increased prevention efforts are needed," study author Lara McKenzie, principal investigator at the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children's Hospital and a faculty member of The Ohio State University College of Medicine, said in a written statement.

In their conclusion, study authors called for more research into what is causing the injuries. They also encouraged people to follow safety precautions, including:

  • Put slip-resistant surfacing in and around the hot tub.
  • Limit time and temperature of hot tub exposure to 10 to 15 minutes at no more than 104° F.
  • Comply with suction cover standards.
  • Parents should keep hot tubs covered and locked when not in use, consider installing a fence or barrier around the area, and set rules prohibiting jumping and diving.

SOURCES: Alhajj, M., American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 2009.

News release, Nationwide Children's Hospital.

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