Kids Health Info

Safety: Bath time

  • Bath time is an essential part of caring for a child and is often part of the daily routine. However, there are a number of bathroom hazards, including risk of drowning, risk of scalds, electrical appliances and potential poisons.

    Bath time safety

    Make sure that you are always there and paying attention when babies, toddlers or children under five years are in the bath.

    • It’s a good idea to get everything ready in advance (e.g. towels, clean clothes, nappies) so you can stay with your child.
    • Stay within arms’ reach of your child, even when using a bath seat or cradle – a bath seat on its own won’t keep your child safe.
    • Don’t leave older siblings to supervise as they may not recognise when a small child is in danger, or react as quickly as an adult.
    • Ignore all distractions that could take your attention away from your child, such as a phone call or the doorbell. If you have a lot going on, delay bath time until another adult is around to help.
    • Empty the bath immediately after use.
    • Run only enough water for washing and play – belly-button height is plenty for a child who can sit up on their own.
    • Consider keeping the bathroom door shut when not in use, so young children can’t get to taps on their own.

    Preventing burns and scalds

    Young children have very sensitive skin, which means that hot water can scald them very quickly. A safe temperature for a child’s bath is between 37°C and 38°C (or about 36°C for a newborn).

    • Check the water temperature with your wrist or elbow – it should be comfortably warm, not hot. You might even want to get a water thermometer. 
    • Ensure the hot water delivered to the bath or shower from your hot water system is a maximum of 50°C. A plumber can help you set this.
    • Never fill a bath with just hot water. Always run cold water with the hot water to get the appropriate bathing temperature.
    • Keep your child away from the bath until the water is the right temperature.
    • Run cold water through the tap when the bath is ready to prevent children from getting a burn or scald from the tap or spout.

    Other bathroom hazards

    • Close the toilet lid after use and install a toilet-lid lock to prevent toddlers playing with it.
    • Keep medicines in original containers, preferably with child-resistant caps, and locked away in a cabinet out of reach (at least 1.5 m high). See our fact sheet: Safety: Poisoning prevention.
    • Unplug electrical appliances and put them away when your child is having a bath.
    • If you don’t already have one in your home, have an electrician install a safety switch that can reduce the likelihood of electrical injury if an appliance does fall into the sink or bathwater.

    Key points to remember

    • Always actively supervise babies, toddlers and children under five years in the bath – never leave a child alone in the bath and never leave older siblings to supervise.
    • Let the water out as soon as bath time is over.
    • Prevent scalds in the bathroom by ensuring the hot water system is set to 50°C.

    For more information

    Common questions our doctors are asked

    How can I change the temperature of the hot water that is delivered to the bathroom? Will this affect the water temperature in all rooms of the house (e.g. ensuite, kitchen, laundry) or do I have to arrange for these to be done separately?

    To prevent burns, hot water delivered to the bath, shower or other areas used for personal hygiene should be at a maximum of 50°C. You should contact a licensed plumber who can check your water heater and do this for you. You will need to discuss your individual needs with the plumber, as the tempering valve is usually installed to affect only the water temperature in bathrooms or ensuites. The hot water delivered to other areas in the home, such and kitchen and laundry, may remain unchanged, so you should be mindful if your children have access to these areas and make sure these taps are also safe.

    Are bath toys safe for my child to play with?

    Bath toys that are hollow or have holes for water to fill them can sometimes become mouldy after being used for a while. Younger children who chew on toys or drink the bath water may become sick from bacteria that gets trapped inside them, so it is recommended that your child only plays with bath toys that are sealed and designed in a way that does not trap water. Alternatively, ensure that hollow bath toys are emptied, dried out and stored out of water after use so that bacteria cannot grow inside them.

    Also be aware of foam bath toys that young children may chew on, which can cause a choking hazard if some of the foam breaks off. Make sure any bath toy is appropriate for the age of your child and meets Australian standards.


    Developed by The Royal Children's Hospital Community Information in consultation with Life Saving Victoria. We acknowledge the input of RCH consumers and carers.

    Reviewed October 2018.

    Kids Health Info is supported by The Royal Children’s Hospital Foundation. To donate, visit www.rchfoundation.org.au.

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Disclaimer
This information is intended to support, not replace, discussion with your doctor or healthcare professionals. The authors of these consumer health information handouts have made a considerable effort to ensure the information is accurate, up to date and easy to understand. The Royal Children's Hospital, Melbourne accepts no responsibility for any inaccuracies, information perceived as misleading, or the success of any treatment regimen detailed in these handouts. Information contained in the handouts is updated regularly and therefore you should always check you are referring to the most recent version of the handout. The onus is on you, the user, to ensure that you have downloaded the most up-to-date version of a consumer health information handout.