Taking your kids to the playground in the summer is perfect for keeping them active and moving. Kids love climbing, sliding, running, and swinging till they drop. But when extreme heat and humidity are present, combined with prolonged exposure to the summer sun, children are at an elevated risk for heat-related illnesses and injuries.
Because of their size, children are already at a higher risk for heat stress than adults in the summer. The Environmental Protection Agency (E.P.A.) states that a child’s body mass to surface area ratio makes them more susceptible to heat-related illnesses, causing them to become dehydrated faster, especially when active. A child’s lack of judgment and love for play may also cause them to exert more energy in extreme heat without knowing how to regulate their bodies or rehydrate at appropriate times.
In addition to the heat, playground equipment exposed to full sun can become so hot that it may be dangerous for children to touch! In 2018, a four-year-old girl suffered instant second-degree burns to her legs when going down a hot slide. News reports stated the temperature was in the triple digits the day of the incident, with the slide measuring over 150 degrees. Unfortunately, it doesn’t take a scorching day for the sun to heat up equipment to dangerous temperatures.
With another possible heat wave coming to Connecticut, parents must stay alert to the heat index and weather conditions before taking their children out to play. Thanks to an article by Local News 8, here are some ways parents can prepare to keep kids cool and safe at the playground.
Safety experts cannot stress enough how important it is to stay hydrated in the summer heat. Dehydration occurs when your body does not have enough water to function correctly, leading to the onset of heat-related illnesses. Children not only lose fluid faster, but they are less likely to drink when playing, putting them at increased risk for heat stress to occur.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (C.D.C.) reports drinking enough fluids is the best way to keep your body hydrated and working properly. While water is the healthiest, sports drinks in moderation that replenish electrolytes can also be helpful on a hot day. Prepare a cooler or bag with plenty of fluids to keep your family hydrated and stick it nearby so children can take frequent drink breaks. If you run out, take a break and stop by a store to grab some more.
Avoid Hot Equipment
Ever hear your children scream that the slide is too hot? It may be even hotter than they think. The U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission (C.P.S.C.) reports that thermal burns constitute a significant hazard on playground equipment in the summer. Metal, plastic, and other coated materials are all capable of causing first and even second-degree burns under the right conditions. The equipment that is most dangerous during hot and sunny days includes:
- Metal slides and poles
- Dark-colored plastics and rubber
- Exposed equipment such as slides and swings
- Surrounding surfaces with asphalt or concrete
You can find ways to cool down playground equipment, such as pouring cold water on slides or using a towel on a swing, but it’s probably not worth the risk. The C.P.S.C. reports children can get burned on equipment when it’s only 74 degrees if in full sun most of the day. Avoiding the playground for the day is always safer if the equipment is unsafe to touch.
Play Early or Later
One way to avoid hot playground equipment is to plan your visit before it has prolonged exposure to the sun. The sun increases in intensity as the day continues, hitting peak heat and radiation between 3:00 pm and 4:30 pm in the summer, according to the Weather Station Lab.
The best time to go to the playground with children is early, preferably before noon or even 10:00 am, depending on how early your little ones wake. You should also hold off on the playground until after 4:30 pm when the sun begins to set and the temperatures become cooler again.
Utilize Shade and Sunscreen
Direct sunlight can cause your child to overheat quickly. Ensure you provide your family with a shaded area at the playground to avoid the sun when it becomes too intense. Hats, sunglasses, and lightweight, protective clothing are great options for your children to use as shade while they play. For the skin that is exposed, always apply an appropriate sunscreen to protect them from sunburns. To find safe sunscreens perfect for your family, EWG provides a guide to sunscreens with the most recent reviews.
Take Frequent Breaks
Your children may need a little encouragement to stop playing, but frequent breaks are vital to protecting them from heat-related illnesses and injuries. The National Athletic Trainers Association (N.A.T.A.) advises parents to provide children 10 to 15-minute fluid and rest breaks every 25 to 30 minutes when playing outdoors in the heat. Setting a timer and keeping all children in your playgroup on the same schedule can help wrangle everyone into resetting to avoid heat stress. Snacks, books, and toys can also help keep kids still enough to cool down before they start to play.
Always Play Safe
Following general playground safety rules can significantly help keep your children safe on the playground, especially when they are hot and more prone to accidents. Ortho Info highlights the following safety steps parents can take on every visit:
- Always supervise children on the playground and make sure you have an unobstructed view.
- Ensure your children are wearing appropriate footwear to avoid tripping.
- Avoid playgrounds with concrete, hard packed soil, asphalt, or grass that can pose harder surfaces when falls occur.
- Keep children on age-appropriate equipment.
- Avoid metal slides and swings.
- Test handgrips before allowing children to swing from heights.
- Remove any tripping hazards left on the playground.
- Report unsafe or damaged equipment to local municipalities.
Jacobs & Wallace Connecticut Accident Attorneys
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