Appropriate Spa and Sauna Use

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Surprising as it may seem, spas (whirlpools), saunas, and steam rooms can be a major cause of injury for your patrons. There may be no muscle trauma as from strength workouts, nor exhaustion as from aerobic exercise, but the elevated temperatures cause a decrease in blood pressure as well as an increase in heart rate and metabolism that can be dangerous for several reasons. Certain medical conditions, e.g., diabetes, high blood pressure, pregnancy, etc., should consult a physician before use.

Common injuries:

  • Primary: dizziness to system failure because of increased heart rate or decreased blood pressure
  • Secondary: abrasions, contusions, and fractures from falls arising from the primary injury

Contributing factors:

  • Inadequate equipment
  • Temperature controls are preset at too high a temperature or are accessible to the users
  • Clock is not present or is not visible to users while they are using the equipment or facility
  • Thermometer is not present or is not accessible to users, preventing them from accurately determining the proper duration of use
  • Inadequate depth marking for spas and whirlpools
  • Lack of supervision
  • Often in remote, seldom visited portions of the building
  • Even when in basically public areas, the units are not closely monitored for time of stay
  • Many of the users using these facilities are elderly
  • Potentially less attentive to the body's warning signs
  • Potentially more susceptible to degraded strength or endurance
  • More susceptible to fractures from falls

Necessary precautions:

  • Limit temperature (following are ANSI standards or manufacturers' guidelines)
  • Spa temperature should not be above 104o F
  • Finnish sauna (dry) temperature should not be above 185o F (180o F generally preferred)
  • Steam room temperature should not be above 114o F (relative humidity 48-62%)
  • Limit duration of stay to a maximum of 15 minutes… shorter for young children
  • Provide rules and warning signs: see Risk Management Topic - Aquatics Safety - Spa Safety
  • Provide adequate handrails in and around the spa or sauna, depending on the facility
  • Provide regular physical monitoring by staff either working in or regularly passing through the area
  • Provide accessible emergency call buttons or telephones, perhaps with video monitoring
  • Provide raised or non-slip flooring, drainage grate, and signs to reduce and warn of slip exposure

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