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As summer heats up, experts warn of playground burn risks for kids

Even on an 80-degree day, a plastic slide can easily warm up to 160 degrees Fahrenheit.

TAMPA, Fla. — You may have noticed it’s starting to get pretty hot out there. With lots of parents anxious to emerge from their COVID quarantines, playgrounds have become a hot spot again – both figuratively and literally.

“It can be dangerously hot. Depending upon the sun. Depending on what the playground material is made of,” said Sherri Wilson, president of EMR Safety and Health.

Wilson and other child safety advocates say grownups need to remember just how hot playground equipment can get.

Even on an 80-degree day, a plastic slide can easily warm up to 160. And other playground parts, like pavement, metal railings and chains on swings – can get even hotter.

“Right now, during this time of the year, is when most of these injuries are happening,” said Wilson. “Because, you’ve got to climatize yourself to this weather.”

“Especially for those of those of us who are still avoiding indoor activities, and this is kind of what we have to go on, we’re trying to get out every single day,” said Alyssa Barrett, a mom enjoying the park in Tampa with her daughters.

Parents we spoke with say it’s always good to touch surfaces before your child does. Look for playgrounds with lots of shade. And keep those little feet and legs covered.

“We always have shoes on no matter what,” said Amy Singh, visiting the park with her two children.

Experts say it doesn’t take long for injury to occur. For example, Wilson, a former firefighter, says a hot slide can cause a second-degree burn in just three seconds and a third-degree burn in just five.

“It’s surprising, yeah. When it’s in direct sun, it’ll get hot quick,” said Matt Cox, visiting the playground with his son.

Other suggestions include hitting the playground early or later in the day when the sun isn’t as strong. And, look for playground equipment with light-colored surfaces, since those are less likely to store heat.

“When they see a playground, it looks inviting. It looks like fun. And they go running off from their parents. And then boom, there’s an injury because they didn’t know something was too hot,” said Wilson. “You need to become aware of the equipment and how hot it can be.”

Experts say if your child does get burned at a local playground, first seek medical attention, if necessary. Then, be sure to contact the park operator, which is usually a local parks and recreation department or school - and let them know about it.

That way they can address the issue before anyone else gets hurt.

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