Each year in the United States, more than 200,000 children ages 14 and younger are treated in emergency rooms for playground-related injuries. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission wants to remind parents to pay attention to the risk to their children of thermal burns from playground equipment.

Be Alert for Thermal Burns

Every child loves the fun of speeding down the slide, flying on the swing set, and climbing on the monkey bars! But no matter the temperature outside, children need to be careful of hot surfaces when playing on the playground.  It doesn’t matter whether the equipment is the old metal kind or the newer plastic kind. Sunny days can cause both types of equipment to heat up to temperatures of 140 degrees or more. Burns to children can occur in minutes at 120 degrees and in only seconds at 140 degrees.

But hot, sunny days are not the only time your child can get burned on the playground. Your child can still experience a burn even on a cool day. The presence of sunlight on even a cold day can result in the equipment retaining heat and causing a burn.

In addition, the younger the child is, the more susceptible they are to a burn. That is because young children’s skin is thinner and more delicate, and the child may not yet have developed the ability to locate the pain and move away from it when they are sitting or standing on a hot surface.

Here are some tips you can take to keep your children from getting burned on the playground.

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Timing

Keep your kids away from the playground when the sun is at its hottest. The safest times to take your child to the playground are either early morning or early evening, when the sun is low and the equipment is cool.

Clothing

Have your kids dress for playground success by wearing long pants to protect the skin on the back of the legs because this area is highly sensitive. Long pants also will help protect your child from friction burns caused by skin rubbing off on the hard surfaces.

Also, have your child wear sneakers to prevent their feet from burning on the surfaces. Sneakers provide good support, prohibit young children from taking them off easily, and protect the soles of their feet.

Treating Burns

If your child does get a burn, it will most likely be a first-degree burn. First-degree burns cause pain, redness and swelling, but they affect only the outer layer of skin.  To treat a first-degree burn, place cold water on the area for 10 to 15 minutes to stop the burning process of the skin.

If your child gets a more serious second-degree burn, the area may have pain, redness, swelling and blistering, which affects both the outer and underlying layer of skin. Apply cold water on the area for 10 to 15 minutes to stop the burn, then cover the area loosely and see a physician immediately.

Also see a physician immediately if the burn is 3 inches or more in diameter, is over a joint, or is located on the sole of the foot or the palm of the hand.

By being aware that burns can occur on the playground and taking steps to avoid skin coming into contact with hot surfaces, parents can help keep their kids safe so that their play date ends in a happy nap rather than a trip to the emergency department.

For more safety information, please visit www.chp.edu/injury-prevention.

Updated Sept. 15, 2020

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