ONLY ON KOLD: Too hot for playtime - Tucson News Now

ONLY ON KOLD: Too hot for playtime

The temperature of plastic handles on a children's climbing wall was measured at 126 degrees. The temperature of plastic handles on a children's climbing wall was measured at 126 degrees.
TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

If you're thinking of heading out to the playground with your kids this time of year, be careful of hot temperatures that can cause second-degree burns to their skin.

That's something that Yesenia Machado tries to keep in mind with her 4-year-old son, Antonio.

"I'm always wondering how hot is it," she said. "Do I have to take him away from it."

Like many kids, Antonio loves to play on the swings and slides. But those surfaces are made out of plastics or metals that heat up quickly under a warm afternoon sun.

Every year, dozens of children in Tucson suffer first- and second-degree burns from touching playground equipment that gets too hot -- the slides, monkey bars, swings, and other contact surfaces.

"Unfortunately, I see it weekly," said Dr. Dale Woolridge, who works in the pediatric emergency room of University of Arizona Medical Center.  "Weekly, we have a child coming in with burns that we ultimately have to treat, and the burns can be quite severe."

It happens so often because playgrounds can be deceptively hotter than we realize.  When outdoor air temperature reaches 90 degrees, the equipment can easily heat up to a dangerous 120 to 150 degrees, capable of causing first- or second-degree burns. 

We used a laser thermometer at local parks to put actual surface temperatures to the test. We tested out a plastic slide sitting in the hot sun all afternoon. It measured 155 degrees. It's worth noting that an egg will fry at about 160 degrees.

At the park, we also tested the temperature of plastic handles on a children's climbing wall. Those parts measured 126 degrees.

"We, as adults, obviously can feel that it's hot and have the wherewithal to withdraw and get away from that hot surface," Woolridge explained. "But children don't have that capacity all the time."

That's why parents should always touch the surface first, to make sure it's not too hot, and try to avoid playgrounds during peak afternoon hours. Better yet, look for parks that offer protective shading over the playground.

Little Antonio likes playing at Tucson's Menlo Park, where the playground is covered by a shade awning. At the shade-covered slides, we measured the surface temperature at a tolerable 96 degrees.

"That's why I'm really glad for the shade because the sun's not beaming right onto the equipment," said Antonio's mom.

But not all parks offer this feature. For example, within the city of Tucson, out of 92 parks that have playgrounds at all, 24 of them have protective awnings over the play equipment.

The city hopes to increase that number, but it's a financial challenge since the awnings cost several thousands of dollars.

Some of the awnings were made possible through active fundraising by the Tucson Parks Foundation.

To see the list of 24 Tucson parks that offer shaded playgrounds, just click the link with this story or go to

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