Children can be injured on playground equipment any time of the year, but federal safety officials warn that summer presents an extra danger: surfaces that become excessively hot under in the summer sun.
Parents and guardians should always touch the surfaces of playground equipment with their hand before allowing young children to play, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) advises. If the surface is too hot to keep a hand on, it will likely cause the child to suffer from thermal burns or rashes.
The risk of thermal injuries from too-hot playground equipment is especially high with children younger than 2 years old because their skin is delicate. Young children also have not yet learned to react by removing themselves from the hot surface, so they may remain where they are, screaming or crying from the pain of burning.
Older children can also get burned, but they can be taught at an early age to feel the surface of the playground equipment before they get on it.
The CPSC also advises that summer is not the only season when playground equipment can become overheated, nor is metal the only material that can cause burn injuries.
Equipment in direct sunlight may become dangerously hot even in milder temperatures, even when it’s made of plastic, rubber, or wood. In fact, the CPSC received one report of a burn injury involving a child that received serious second-degree burns from a plastic slide on a 74-degree day.
Asphalt or concrete surfaces can also be scorching hot, so young children should always wear shoes and supervisors be present to quickly pick up children who fall on these hot surfaces.
Playground equipment with metal surfaces are usually protected with a heat-reducing surface layer, but older, worn equipment may not have this added protection.
The CPSC also advises parents to dress their kids in shoes and long pants before heading to a playground. Simply doing so can go far in preventing thermal burns.