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Pediatr Nurs. 1999 Mar-Apr;25(2):151-5.

Are ball pits the playground for potentially harmful bacteria?

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Coronary Care Unit, Riverside Regional Medical Center, Newport News, VA, USA.


Ball pits, enclosed play areas with padded floors and pits of small plastic balls, have become popular features for children at fast food restaurants. This pilot study sought to identify and confirm bacterial organisms that place children at a potential health risk in three play pits within fast food restaurants. Data for this descriptive study were randomly collected from restaurants offering play pits with multicolored, round, hollow, plastic balls within urban communities of the Tidewater region of Virginia. Specimens were collected from entrances into the ball pits as well as various areas of the bottom lining to incur a representative sample. Results indicated an increased level of normal flora as well as nonhuman flora, demonstrating that bacteria are present within the ball pits. The results question the safety of these play pits for both health care providers and parents. Nurses play a vital role in public awareness through health education. Disinfection protocol and proper handwashing are the keys to making ball pit play areas safe for children.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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