A study published by the University of Arizona suggests that almost half of all playground equipment is contaminated with potentially illness-inducing bacteria. While swinging on monkey bars, coasting down slides, and enjoying other recreational equipment, children are exposed to the urine, blood, saliva, sweat, and mucus of others who've used the equipment before them. These facts make playground equipment twice as big of a biohazard as public restrooms. Whether at an educational institution, park, or indoor play areas, parents and guardians should take precautions to protect children from contracting and transferring the germs and bacteria present on playground equipment. Fortunately, there are a number of simple hygiene practices that can safeguard a child's health, whether at school or in public.
Without consistent, proper cleaning and sanitation, playground equipment can be a breeding ground for a host of bacteria and germs that cause mild to serious health issues. Norovirus, E. coli, salmonella, and hepatitis A are just a few of the common bacterium and illnesses that can be found in children's playgrounds. In addition, already sick children can present even more of a health threat to your child. Infection can occur with a simple, accidental bump into a contagious playmate or the light touch of a contaminated surface.
To prepare for your child's playground visit, keep some wet towelettes on hand. You can use them to wipe their hands after they've finished playing, or clean especially dirty playground equipment before they touch it. A small, travel-sized bottle of hand sanitizer can come in handy, if your child is socializing with other children who are sneezing, coughing, or exhibiting other signs of illness. Keeping a miniature first aid kid on your person can ensure immediate treatment and protection against infection, if your child happens to injure themselves on the playground by scrapping or cutting their skin.
After your child has finished romping around the playground, instruct them to wash their hands with soap and water. Soap without antibacterial properties can be effective against germs and illnesses, as long as it provides an adequate lather. Scrubbing, however, needs to take place for at least 15 seconds, and all areas of the hands require washing, including the area underneath fingernails. For even more effective protection against germs, teach your child to open and close faucets by first wrapping their hand in a paper towel. This practice can guard against the transfer of germs, as faucet handles can be rife with bacteria, as well. Consider inquiring about how recently a playground has been cleaned before exposing your child to it.
Many of the same, handwashing hygiene techniques practiced on the playground can help your child avoid germs within a classroom, as well. In addition, instructing your child to use their own school supplies, avoid wearing other kids' clothes, and keep their hands out of their mouth and off their face can go far in stalling the experience of disease. Teaching your child to be careful around areas with high-germ concentrations, like water fountains and cafeteria trays, can also spare them from illness. If your child is already ill, advise against playing in playgrounds while feeling under the weather. Keeping kids away from others will help contain the illness and stop the spread of it to other kids. This strategy may even indirectly reduce the amount of days that your child is sick, as taking care not to transfer the illness to others can guard against reinfection.
Reports Citing the High Instances of Germs on Playgrounds
- The Germiest Places You Encounter in Your Day
- Cleanliness at Fast-food Playlands Questioned
- The Dangers of Indoor Play Areas
Germs at School
- Healthy Schools, Healthy People Statistics
- Back to School Germs to Avoid
- Schools Can Be a Hotbed of Bacteria
- Stopping Germs at Home, Work, and School (PDF)
- School-wide Hand Washing Campaigns Cut Germs, Absenteeism
Avoiding Germs in the Classroom
- Germs in the School Room
- Outsmart Germs at School and Home This Fall (PDF)
- Germs at School (PDF)
- How to Clean and Disinfect Schools to Help Slow the Spread of Flu
- Handwashing: A Toddler's Best Weapon Against Colds (PDF)
- Preventing the Spread of Germs
- Keep Germs at Bay (PDF)
- Five Ways to a Healthier, Cleaner, Classroom
- The Scrub Club's Teacher's Guide (PDF)
Proper Handwashing Techniques
- Why is Handwashing So Important?
- Handwashing: Prevent Disease and Outbreak Intervention (PDF)
- Lather Up for Good Health: A Classroom Education Guide (PDF)
- Handwashing Lesson Plan (PDF)
- Handwashing Lesson Plans for K-6 (PDF)
- Covering Coughs and Sneezes: Handwashing Lesson Plans (PDF)
Find more about the author: Kim Hart