The summer months provide plenty of opportunities for children to head to their local neighborhood playground. While HSHS St. Francis Hospital certainly encourages children to engage in physical activity, parents should take caution when their children play on playground equipment during the heat of summer.

According to Playground Medic, an organization dedicated to making playgrounds as safe as possible for today’s and tomorrow’s children through identification of hazards and maintenance of playgrounds, even dark colored plastic play equipment has been measured to reach a temperature of 148 degrees in the direct sun when the air temperature was 85 degrees. Playground Medic also notes that children’s skin will burn at a temperature of 130 degrees. Because children have delayed reflexes, they might experience a more severe burn due to a lack of immediate reaction to the hot surface. Bottom line: if shade structures do not protect the equipment from the sun, the surface can become extremely hot and can cause burns on the skin. Check for hot surfaces on playground equipment before allowing children to play on it.

Beyond protecting children from potential playground equipment burns, the National Program for Playground Safety has put together a list of summer playground safety tips:

  • Ensure adult supervision is present – Adult presence is needed to watch for potential hazards, observe, intercede and facilitate play when necessary.

  • Make sure children are playing on age-appropriate equipment – Preschoolers (ages 2 – 5) and school-age children (ages 5 – 12) are developmentally different and need different equipment located in separate areas to keep the playground safe and fun for all.

  • Check to see if appropriate fall surfacing material is present – Nearly 70 percent of all playground injuries are related to children falling to the ground. Acceptable surfaces include wood fiber or mulch, pea gravel, sand, poured-in-place rubber, rubber mats or rubber tiles. Playground surfaces should not be concrete, asphalt, grass, blacktop, packed dirt or rocks.

  • Double-check that the equipment is safe – Check to make sure the equipment is anchored safely in the ground, all equipment pieces are in good working order, S-hooks are entirely closed, bolts are not protruding, and there are no exposed footings. Equipment should be free of rust, splinters and missing parts.

  • No strings or ropes should be present – Strings on clothing or ropes used for play can cause accidental strangulation if caught on equipment. Ropes used as part of playground equipment should be secured on both ends.

  • No bicycle helmets should be worn while playing on the equipment – Children should not wear bike helmets when playing on playground equipment. They can easily get caught and may cause strangulation.

  • Children should wear appropriate clothing – Closed shoes and appropriate clothing will help prevent injury while on the playground.

  • Take proper sun protection precautions - Encourage the use of UVA and UVB protective clothing and sunglasses, suggest playing in shaded areas, and, of course, always use sunscreen.

  • Protect children from extreme temperatures – A heat index at or above 90 degrees may pose a health risk to children. Be watchful of the temperature while outdoors and keep children well hydrated.

Media Contact

Kelly Barbeau

Manager, Marketing & Communications
HSHS Illinois
Office: (618) 234-2120, Ext. 41270

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