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Splash Pads Pose Surprising Summer Danger: Burned Feet

Injuries in the past have been reported in Ontario and Quebec.

A Kingston, Ont. family is warning against the unexpected dangers lurking in splash pads.

Splash pads are havens for young kids to enjoy water-jet fun in the midst of the summer heat. One-year-old Thomas Donnelly was playing at a community splash pad when he severely burned the bottoms of his feet, according to the Ottawa Citizen.

The tot was enjoying the splash pad, but refused to keep his shoes on, like most littles. Eventually, his mom, Amanda Insley, gave up and let him run free, thinking the water would cool the ground.

The next thing she knew, Thomas was screaming after stepping onto a hot metal door, which covered the mechanical sprinkler machines used to pump water into the splash pad. These ground-level doors are intended to keep the machines dry and keep small children safe.

Amanda kept his feet under water until an ambulance arrived.

Watch: toddler burns feet at splash pad in Seattle, Wa. Story continues below.

‘Keep off,’ ‘Danger’ signs weren’t enough

Cases of splash-pad burns have surfaced during the summer in recent years.

Two other children, Greyson Pelvin and Loïc also suffered traumatic burns from hot water-park grates, in Ontario and Quebec respectively.

Greyson found himself on a grate at the Gellert Community Park Splash Pad in Georgetown, Ont. in July 2015. At the time of the incident, the doors read “Keep off” and “Danger,” but there was no physical barricade to stop small splash-pad users who, unsurprisingly, may not be able to read yet.

According to Loïc’s mother, Isabelle Desjardins, the metal grate that Loïc stepped on at Parc de la Chanterelle in Quebec City in June 2016 didn’t appear to be a danger. There were no fences or signs to warn about the overheating grates.

Both Greyson and Loïc were taken to hospitals, where they each received medical attention. Greyson required a skin graft procedure, while Loïc was required to refrain from walking for up to a week.

Thomas’ pain is being managed via over-the-counter painkillers and topical creams on the burns. He will still need to be assessed for nerve damage and have dead tissue removed from his feet. He has also been instructed to keep off his feet for a few days.

Sheila Kidd, commissioner, transportation and public works for the city of Kingson, Ont. said, “Work crews have examined the Shannon Park splash pad site and painted the grate and placed barriers around it until a more permanent solution can be implemented.”

Greyson’s hometown, Georgetown, Ont., immediately barricaded the metal door and insisted that it was the first incident in 15 years. In Quebec City, where Loïc was injured, the city temporarily corrected the issue at the time and was looking into long-term solutions, such as paint or carpet.

Every province has different guidelines for splash-pad safety, but it is ultimately up to the parent or guardian to ensure their child’s safety. “We all have to work together, and look at ways to have fun, safe environments where we can be healthy and active, and stay cool,” Barbara Costache of the Alberta and Northwest Territories Lifesaving Society, a national charity that advises communities on safety guidelines, told Today’s Parent. “Be aware of the risks, and promote behaviour that is water-smart.”

Preventing kids from running off unattended and keeping shoes on are also recommended to keep kids safe.

If parents have concerns with the safety of their splash pads, they should contact the local park staff or the customer service line at city hall.

Burns of all kinds are not uncommon for children. According to the B.C. injury research prevention unit, burns are the second leading cause of visits to the B.C. Children’s Hospital emergency room for kids under the age of five. Kids’ skin is thinner, so burns can occur four times faster and deeper than adults.

If a child suffers a burn, Dr. Sarah Burton Macleon advises parents take the child to a medical professional if it is around their faces, specifically their eyes, and is large in size. “If you are just not sure, just get it checked out,” she added.

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