Near-record heat can mean dangerously hot playground equipment

Missouri

ST. LOUIS – This near-record heat can be dangerous to children for multiple reasons.

Dr. Ken Haller, SLUCare pediatrician at SSM Health Cardinal Glennon, said when the temperatures climbs above 90 degrees, parents need to be extra cautious.

Playground equipment that bakes in the sun all day can get dangerously hot.

“If you’re out in a playground that has metal surfaces, especially bright metal surfaces, not painted, that can cause some real significant burns,” said Dr. Haller. “If a kid holds on to it for a long enough time, it could be first-degree or even second-degree burns if it’s really bad.”

The surface material can make a big difference.

“A lot of times these days, playground equipment is made out of plastic. That’s not quite as hot but still can be hot or the metal is painted another color and the paint will tend to make it a little less hot,” Haller said.

Of the play areas we visited today, the turtles in the full sunshine at Turtle Park registered over 130 degrees. While the ones in the shade were a lot cooler, just about 108 degrees. A plastic slide in full sunshine was 136 degrees but the painted metal bars were 108.

The asphalt was the hottest surface we found today — 142 degrees.

“We want kids to stay on surfaces that are lighter. So if you are on a playground and it is made out of asphalt be careful because that holds a lot of heat and kids if they touch it they can burn themselves and it’ll just make them a lot hotter if they’re playing on asphalt,” Haller said.

Mark Triplett and his family who are visiting St. Louis on their drive down to Florida stopped to explore the turtles. His wife had some good advice.

“When we were coming back here across the bridge my wife goes, ‘don’t walk across those it’s going to be hot. You know, don’t touch them. Well, then the kids were climbing right across them doing their own thing,” said Triplett. “If it’s right in the direct sun obviously it’s going to be hot. My wife is a teacher so she always looks at the playgrounds when we go traveling and says if it’s in the sun we’re not going to play on that one. Even if it’s the cool-to-touch ones, it still ends up getting a little hot.”

Dr. Haller says that one of the most important things for parents is to have shaded places they can go to in this kind of weather.

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