Home safety: Bath time

Make bath time a safe and happy experience for you and your child

Mom bathing an infantBath time and water play can be a lot of fun for children. However, babies under one year old are more likely to drown in the bathtub than in any other place. Children are also particularly at risk of getting burned in the bath because their skin is thinner than an adult's skin. Here's how to help reduce the risks to your child during bath time.

Supervise at all times. Babies can drown in as little as 2.5 centimetres (one inch) of water in just a few seconds. It is important to always stay within sight and reach of your child when in or around water.

Bath seats and bath rings are not safe. Bath seats and rings give parents and caregivers a false sense of security. Parents reported that they were more comfortable leaving their baby alone in the bathtub for a few moments, if the baby was in a bath seat. But bath seats and rings are dangerous. If your baby slips under the bath ring, the bath ring can trap your baby under the water. In addition, the arms that attach to the side of the tub can slip. This can also trap your baby under the water. For more information on the hazards of bath seats and bath rings visit Consumer Product Safety, Health Canada or call 1-866-662-0666.

Don't rely on older siblings. Never leave a baby alone in a bathtub with an older sibling or siblings. Many severe tap water scalds and drownings have occurred when children were supervised by an older sibling.

Always check the temperature of the water before bathing your child. A child's skin burns four times more quickly and deeply than an adult's at the same temperature. Serious burn injuries have long-term consequences for a child, often involving repeated skin grafts and up to two years of wearing compression garments. This and other effects can leave children with disfigurement, permanent physical disability and emotional difficulties. Make sure to follow the safety tips to prevent burning and scalding from happening to your child. Hot water alone is too hot for a bath, especially for a child. Always add cold water before putting the child in the bath. Make sure to test the water by placing your elbow or forearm in the water. Ideally it should feel "just warm." Mix the water to get rid of hot spots.

Lower your tap water temperature. Hot water at 60° C can produce third-degree burns in one to five seconds. Set the maximum temperature of your water taps at 49 °C (120 °F). Read the manual for your water heater before changing the setting on the thermostat dial. Different types of water heaters need to be set differently to ensure there is enough hot water for your home and to avoid the build-up of bacteria inside the tank. If you do not have a manual, contact the company that made the water heater. Their number should be posted on the heater. If you rent your water heater, contact the rental company.

'Anti-scald' or 'shut-off' devices: These are products that attach to the faucet or tap. Some models actually replace the faucet. If the water gets too hot, these devices slow down the water to a trickle. You can restart the water by mixing more cold water into the tap. Anti-scald devices are available in safety specialty shops, some hardware stores and some children's product stores. They may require adapters and/or the help of a plumber to install them.

Tap guards: A tap guard can be used to block your child's access to the hot water tap. These can be found in many home improvement and child safety stores.

How to check your hot water temperature at home: Use a thermometer that can show high temperatures, like a meat or candy thermometer. Turn on the hot water tap in your bathroom. Let it run for two minutes. If you have used a lot of hot water in the past hour, wait two hours before you do this test. Fill a cup with the hot water. Put the thermometer in the cup. Look at the temperature. If it is higher than 49° C (120° F), you need to lower your water temperature.