Burn Safety at the Playground

Child playing on slide

You may remember the metal slides of your youth and how they could get very hot in the summer sun. But what you may not realize is that today’s newer materials, such as plastics and rubbers, also have the potential to become hot enough to burn a child’s skin.

It Doesn't Have to Be Hot Outside for a Child to Receive a Burn

The weather does not have to be hot in order for equipment to heat up and cause burns. Even in mild weather, as long as the equipment or surfacing is in direct sunlight for an extended period of time, there is a risk of sustaining a thermal burn injury.

Non-Metal Slides Can Burn, Too

Because bare, uncoated metal slides can cause severe burns, many pieces of metal playground equipment have either been replaced with plastic equipment or coated with heat-reducing paint—yet burns still occur, even on plastic, rubber and other nonmetal surfaces.

What To Watch For

  • Uncoated metal equipment, or metal equipment where the heat-reducing coating has rubbed off
  • Slides, swings or other equipment that a child may sit on
  • Dark-colored plastics and rubbers, especially the surfacing under and around the playground equipment
  • Asphalt and concrete surfaces near playgrounds.

Who's At Risk

A child of any age can be burned by a hot surface; however, children two years old and younger are most at risk for two reasons:

  1. A young child’s skin is more susceptible to burning because it is thinner and more delicate.
  2. Young children have not yet learned to react by removing themselves from the hot surface.

Unlike the reflex that happens when a child touches a very hot surface with their hand, a young child who is sitting or standing on the hot surface may scream from the pain of burning, but they may not know to move from the location that is burning them.

What To Do

  • Always be aware of the sun and weather conditions, and do not assume that the equipment is safe because the air temperature is not very hot.
  • Always check the temperature of the equipment and surfacing before letting your children play on the playground.
  • Remember, a young child’s skin will burn faster than your own. If it feels hot to your hand, it may be too hot for a child’s bare skin.
  • Because some materials transfer heat more slowly than others, these materials may not feel hot with a quick touch.
  • Always dress your child in appropriate clothing for the playground (e.g., shoes, pants).
  • Remember that playground equipment, as well as playground surfacing, may cause burns.
  • Always watch your children while on the playground. Supervision can help to prevent some incidents.

More about The Burn Center at Rhode Island Hospital