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Germs at the Playground: What Parents Need to Know

07 Aug, 2017

Germs at the Playground: What Parents Need to Know

It’s no surprise that public spaces are full of germs. Coming in contact with bacteria and other microbes is a part of developing a healthy immune system, after all. But just how dirty is your child’s public playground? The swing sets, slides, see-saws, and monkey bars your little one is playing on might be exposing her to more than you’ve bargained for.

Toddlers aren’t exactly a hygiene conscious demographic, which means germs are spread around more quickly in the environment, and your kids are more likely to pick them up accidentally while playing. This is a problem when, according to Homeadvisors study on the issue, the baby swing at an average public playground has 9 million CFUs (colony forming units of bacteria) per square inch. That’s several hundred times more germs than a toilet seat in an average American home.

 

That’s a lot of Germs, will my Child get Sick?

More germs aren’t necessarily more dangerous than fewer. If those specific kinds of bacteria aren’t harmful, it isn’t an issue. However, large concentrations of germs like this suggests that the environment allows bacteria to survive for a long time. In a public place, where lots of children are constantly depositing new germs, there are likely to be a huge variety of them. In a situation like this, it might be better to avoid excessive exposure.

 

Strategies to Avoid Contaminated Play Equipment

Not all play equipment is equally germy, and parents who know where the germs are, and what to do about them can keep their kids protected.

 

Know which equipment is dirtiest

The most heavily contaminated equipment is mostly that used by very young children. That means baby swings, see-saws, and slides. Besides that, climbing walls also have very high densities of microbes, even those designed for older children. This is most likely because the rubber grips hold microbes very well, and their shape provides crevices and sun-protected spots that keep UV radiation from reaching and disinfecting those areas regularly. In general, the dirtiest spots will be those that are both hidden from disinfecting sunlight, and that kids touch frequently.

 

Get Your Own Swing Set

A simple way to avoid sharing the public’s germs is just to use a private swing set. All the germs on the play equipment in your own backyard are going to be from your own kids, or their friends. You can control when others come over, and clean the equipment whenever you feel it’s appropriate.

 

Wipe down public equipment

To deal with the problem directly, you can simply kill the germs yourself when you’re using public equipment. Of course, this is an imperfect solution, since a parents can’t very well wipe down an entire playground. However, there’s nothing to stop you from using a disinfectant wipe to clean a bucket swing before placing your child in it.

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