Playgrounds, toys and sports equipment aren’t safe for kids during pandemic

Playgrounds, toys and sports equipment aren’t safe for kids during pandemic
Facts are facts: Kids don't wash their hands while playing, often carrying germs transmitted to playground equipment and other surfaces. For safety, keep the kids off jungle gyms and other playground equipment at the park. (UAB)

With local and state officials telling most people to stay home and avoid contact with others, it is a stressful and uncertain time for everyone – including children. Facts are facts: Kids don’t wash their hands while playing, often carrying germs transmitted to playground equipment and other surfaces.

Health experts advise avoiding the playground at this time. (UAB)

Many parents are finding it hard to keep their kids active; some are still allowing children on playgrounds with other kids, toys and sporting equipment. The question they ask: What is the harm if they are following the appropriate social distancing protocol?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the key to slowing the spread of COVID-19 is limiting personal contact as much as possible. If children meet outside in large groups, it can put everyone at risk.

Even if kids are social distancing on the playground, they are still touching the same surfaces others have touched. COVID-19 can live on surfaces from a few hours to days.

Tips to avoid the coronavirus

A new study from the New England Journal of Medicine found coronavirus lives:

  • On plastic: After 8 hours, 10 percent of the virus was still there, but it did not become undetectable until after 72 hours.
  • On stainless steel: The numbers began plummeting after four hours, becoming undetectable after about 48 hours.
  • On copper: Undetectable after 8 hours.
  • On cardboard: Undetectable after 48 hours.

    UAB Assistant Professor Raut said to keep kids off the playground for now. (UAB)

Samiksha Raut, Ph.D., associate professor in the UAB Department of Biology, said it is important for parents to keep their kids at home and away from playgrounds, shared toys and sports equipment during the crisis.

“Kids are constantly moving from one part of the playground to another and are quite prone to touching their faces – nose, eyes, etc., at intervals,” Raut said. “Therefore, if they happen to touch an object with the novel coronavirus, the chances of getting infected are very high. Despite the emerging evidence that children continue to show mild symptoms of COVID-19, they can still function as active carriers of the virus, especially in the asymptomatic phase. Above all, given their ages, they do not understand the importance of social distancing and, hence, should be actively supervised by parents and/or caretakers.”

To help minimize the spread of COVID-19, use these hygiene guidelines recommended by CDC for your kids:

  • Make sure they wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use an alcohol-based sanitizer.
  • Keep children quarantined from a family member who is sick with the virus.
  • Periodically clean and disinfect the high-touch surface areas like table tops, chairs, remote controls, doorknobs, toilets and light switches.
  • Clean plush toys and stuffed animals in the washing machine. Wash clothes separately from those of a family member who is under quarantine.

Get the latest COVID-19 information at uab.edu/coronavirus.

This story originally appeared on the UAB News website.

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