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Let’s All Just Back Away Slowly from Indoor Playgrounds, Shall We?

Indoor playground

Of course she’s smiling! Things that are warm and gooey can feel good until you start smelling what they actually are.

I am an admitted germaphobe. I have a very real fear of public pools. I can’t go near them. I don’t like to touch my children after they’ve been in them. But my fear of germs is not limited to pools. I don’t even like to touch my own children when they’re sick. (Yes, that sounds very unloving, but what good am I to them if I’m also sick while they’re sick? Can you spell d-i-s-a-s-t-e-r?)

Another place that I stay far, far away from — and unlike pools, that I also require my children not touch with a 10-foot pole? Indoor playgrounds.

I understand and regularly encourage the concept of sharing. But I have a limit. Here’s a perfect example of why:

iVillage.com.au reports that last year there was an outbreak of norovirus linked to an indoor playground. Why? Well, let’s just say a child pooped somewhere other than the bathroom. Yup.

Ten parties were happening simultaneously at a Chipmunks Playland in New Zealand when some kid pooped on a slide and 70 people fell ill. Not just puking because it happened, but because the spread of poop can literally make you really sick.

Norovirus, of course, is it’s own nightmare, with sufferers prone to nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach cramps, headache and fever.

Oh, sure, that Chipmunks shut down for two days after. But the psychological damage? Mine, at least? It’ll last forever.

Public health officials looked into the Chipmunks “code brown” incident and said the playground had “limited ventilation” (more room for the germs to be spread, heard, seen and felt!) — but it was still “clean.” So even a clean facility is still just disgusting. But, really, how can it not be? You have a bunch of little people prone to picking their noses, sucking their thumbs, not wiping well and washing their hands frequently enough, some who aren’t potty trained, some who are having trouble potty training — all together sharing hundreds of toys, balls, slides and other assorted materials that are just too tough to clean as often as it would take to ensure everyone’s health. A recipe for something repulsive.

I don’t trust toys in doctors’ offices — that they’re really being cleaned as often as they need to be (hence, I don’t trust doctors who keep toys in their offices — period). I know I sound like a snob. I’m sure there are kids in urban areas or in areas with lots of bad weather who perhaps have no other seemingly safe choices but indoor playgrounds. Same with people who can’t swim with their kids anywhere but public pools — not everyone has access to fancy-schmancy private pools and backyard playgrounds with nice weather.

I’m not saying my phobia is politically correct. But I have it and it is real nonetheless. And stories like this are not helping me get over it. In fact, it just reenforces it that much more. Although it is a pet peeve of mine for people to present problems not followed by a proposed solution, I don’t have the answer in this case. I’m not saying kids shouldn’t play. I’m just saying there must be some other place or way for them to play other than in a pit of balls that may or may not be covered in fecal matter.

For everyone else, there really has to be another way. Me, on the other hand, well, I’m a lost cause that all the hand sanitizer in the world won’t cure.

More from Meredith on Babble:

Follow Meredith on Twitter and check out her regular column on the op-ed page of The Denver Post at MeredithCarroll.com

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