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Relief is on the way for kids who want to get out and play in Leon Valley

A shade structure is being put in over a playground to keep children from getting burned.

SAN ANTONIO — Kids love to run around the playground at Raymond Rimkus Park, but it's a little too hot to handle right now.

Dr. Lillian Liao is the pediatric trauma and burn director at University Hospital. She said during the summer, a child will come in with burns from the playground once or twice a month. "When the outdoor temperature gets to be 80 or 90 degrees, the playground equipment, if it's metal, can heat up to 20, 30, 40 degrees higher," she said.

Liao said the injuries range from minor to severe. 

"They can be anywhere from a first degree burn to a second degree burn," Liao said. "The second degree burns are pretty severe, because they will blister and will require some kind of wound care." 

With younger children, she's seen third degree burns that require surgery.

"The worst cases we've seen are usually in children under three years old, put on maybe a slide that was metal, so they burn the back of their legs and palms," Liao said. "We've had to do multiple surgeries on those patients."

 After a few parents brought up similar concerns over the heat, Leon Valley City Manager Kelly Kuenstler said the city set aside money to do something about it. 

The playground at Ramond Rimkus Park is closed for the next week while construction crews install a shade structure.

"I can't imagine being a little kid with shorts on and having to go down those hot slides," Kuenstler said. She said the city council allocated $152,000 for the project at the larger playground and $40,000 for the smaller playground at the park.

"Raymond Rimkus is a really neat, beautiful park which provides a lot of activities and a lot of positive experiences for our citizens, so installing these shade structures is a quality of life issue," she said.

Kuenstler said next year the city will install a cover over the smaller playground in the Raymond Rimkus Park. It will then move on to other parks nearby. 

"They will keep the UV rays off the parents and children that play here, our patrons," Kuenstler said. "And it also reduces the temperature of the area beneath them by five to 10 degrees."

While keeping the direct sunlight off the playground will make a difference, Liao said parents should still be careful. She suggests going to the playground before noon and checking the temperature of the equipment yourself before you let your child play.

"Anything under the sun can heat up, just like the car. Even though it's completely covered, it can get up to 180 degrees on the inside," Liao said. "So plastic can heat up just like any other object."

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