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Toddler's burn raises warning that metal slides aren't the only summer danger

When she's not writing, Claire Gillespie can most often be found wiping snotty noses, picking up Lego, taking photos of her cat or doing headstands.

This summer playground hazard is serious... and surprising parents right and left

One of the easiest — and cheapest — ways to keep young kids entertained during the summer is to take them to your local playground. But before you do that, listen to one mom’s warning.

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Tennessee mom Ashley Elizabeth Brown said her 14-month-old son experienced second-degree burns on his hands after playing on day care playground equipment on a hot summer day.

It’s the kind of danger most people are unaware of until they actually touch the equipment themselves. In direct sunlight, plastic, rubber and other nonmetal surfaces can reach a temperature of more than 100 degrees F, says the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Over a seven-year period, the CPSC recorded 30 playground thermal burns, 10 of which were from the aforementioned surfaces.

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And it doesn't have to be a superhot day for the equipment to heat up and cause burns. If a surface or piece of equipment is in direct sunlight for an extended period of time, there's a risk of thermal burn injuries even in mild weather. The CPSC reported one incident of a child receiving serious second-degree burns from a plastic slide — on a 74-degree F day.

You don’t need to quit taking your child to the playground anytime soon, but you should check the temperature of the equipment before they start to play. Don’t forget how delicate and thin a young child’s skin is — it can get badly burned within seconds. Plus, a little kid may not yet have learned to react to the pain of being burned by moving themselves away from the hot surface.

Another tip from the CPSC is to look out for uncoated metal equipment or metal equipment where the heat-reducing coating has rubbed off. Equipment in dark colors (both plastic and rubber), as well as asphalt and concrete surfaces, can get extremely hot, posing a burn risk to kids’ hands and feet. Minimize the risk by dressing your child in pants and long-sleeved tops, and insist they keep their shoes on while on the playground.

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For more information, see the CPSC Fact Sheet: Burns Safety Awareness on Playgrounds.

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This summer playground hazard is serious... and surprising parents right and left
Image: fStop Images - Sven Hagolani/Getty Images
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