5 tips to keeps your kids safe from hidden dangers at playgrounds

By Haley Hernandez - Health Reporter

HOUSTON - With 200,000 kids going to the hospital for playground injuries every year, a local ER pediatrician said most injuries happen on school playgrounds.

It's critical for children to play outside to develop their minds and bodies but there are hidden dangers.

Four-year-old Madison can still remember falling off the playground equipment more than a year ago. Her mom, Jamie Boles, said she was on a ledge when she accidentally took a step back.

"She sat up initially. Her mouth was bleeding but didn't seem to have any other injuries but she said 'Mommy my stomach hurts,' so we knew we needed an ambulance to come get her," Boles said.

It was a terrifying incident for a mom to witness but Kay Leaming-Van Zandt, from Texas Children's Hospital, said it's surprisingly common.

Internal bleeding, head injuries or broken bones can happen on playgrounds and are sometimes so bad they may require surgery.

"Head injuries are also sometimes difficult to assess the seriousness of it but overall parents should be looking for severe pain, nausea, vomiting, forgetfulness or overall changes in the child's behavior or activity. Certainly, if they're demonstrating more physical symptoms like facial drooping or slurred speech or not using one side of the body versus the other, then it's certainly very important that they go to the closest emergency department," Leaming-Van Zandt said.

According to Texas Children's Hospital, the most common places a child 5 to 14 years old will get hurt is on the monkey bars or climbing equipment. Kids under 4 are more likely to get hurt on the swings or slides, even if mom and dad are with them.

"We sometimes feel that by putting younger children in our laps and sliding down with them (that) would be the safest option but actually we've seen some injuries where children have their legs get caught in between the parent's legs and the slide itself, causing broken bones or also some contusions and other injuries," Leaming-Van Zandt said.

To safely play outside, Leaming Van-Zandt recommends:

1) Kids sitting on bottoms - by themselves - on swings and slides
2) No jumping off of swings 
3) No jumping from elevated surfaces
4) Parents should stay alert, not distracted by other parents or cellphones
5) Kids should be wearing playground-safe clothing, which means no hoodies, necklaces or capes, which can pose a risk for strangulation

"We see lots of injuries associated with children getting a little too risky and trying to fly off of the swing while they're still swinging pretty high in the air," she said.

It turns out Madison was not badly hurt and was quickly discharged from Texas Children's Hospital.

Now Boles warns other parents about what can happen.

"The ladder up or the rock climbing up to the tall slide. If you're not paying attention, they can just fall off," she said.

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