Mom warns of dangers of plastic slides after toddler suffers thermal burns

Plastic slides are just as susceptible to heating up as the old metal ones, this mom warns.
Plastic slides are just as susceptible to heating up as the old metal ones, this mom warns. Jeffrey Penalosa / EyeEm

The playground, with its bright primary colours and soft-edged equipment, looks like a fun and safe space for little kids, but one mother would argue otherwise.

When Stephanie Luker took her daughter Ariadne to the local playground last Thursday, it was business as usual until the toddler complained that her hand hurt after playing on the yellow plastic slide. The Idaho mom inspected her daughter’s hand and saw that it was red, so she decided to pack it in and head home. But once there, the situation worsened.

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“When I got home I was wiping her hand off to look at it, and cleaning it off I saw that it had blistered up a little bit on her fingers,” she said in an interview with KETV Omaha.

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She called the doctor to get some insight on her daughter’s injury, and that’s when she learned that Ariadne had suffered second-degree thermal burns from the slide.

“My daughter is red-haired and fair-skinned, so we have always been aware of sunburn, but not this,” Luker said to “I see a lot of parents, myself included, just let kids go be kids and not worry about checking slides or other play equipment.”

In her television interview, Luker noted that the old metal slides had been replaced with plastic ones in the name of safety, but she wanted to warn parents that the new slides are just as susceptible to becoming dangerously hot under the sun.

“While people anticipate metal to get hot in the sun, plastic can get hot enough to cause burns, too — especially darker colours, because they absorb more of the sun’s wavelengths than lighter colours,” said Lexi Sachs, a senior textiles analyst in the Good Housekeeping Institute Textiles, Paper & Plastic Lab. “Even on days when the weather is mild, plastic can get heated by the sun and cause burns.”

Dr. Marvin Gans, a Toronto-based pediatrician, was surprised to hear about Ariadne’s story.

“This isn’t something I’ve seen very often,” he said to Global News. “But it could happen.”

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He says this kind of injury is a combination of how steep the slide is, how fast the child is going, whether they’re wearing rubber-soled shoes that can slow them down and how tight they’re holding on. While most of us would lift our hands when travelling down a slide, toddlers have a tendency to hold on, which makes this kind of injury a possibility.

“I think this is a message about how vigilant parents need to be at the playground,” he said. “But, you know, this is what happens with toddlers — they get injuries in general.”

As for Luker, she wanted to use Ariadne’s example as a warning to parents about heated plastic.

“I just wanted to let people know that even on the plastic slides your kids can get burned,” she said.