How clean are those plastic ball pits? You might not want to know.

How clean are those plastic ball pits? You might not want to know.

You love your kids and grandkids and you want to see them have a ball, so to speak, by frolicking around in those big bins of plastic balls you find at certain fast-food restaurants and other public play areas. But a recent study has this revelation: Pretty much everything a parent has had to clean off their offspring can be found in the ball pits, including vomit, feces and more bacteria than you can even imagine.

Researchers at the University of North Georgia examined six ball pits around the country. What they found is not for the faint of heart. The bacteria and germs from the saliva, leaking diapers, coughs and sneezes that kids bring with them stay behind.

The researchers identified more than 30 kinds of bacteria in the ball pits. You might want to sit down for this one: One area had an average of 170,000 different bacteria per ball. The diseases identified included pneumonia, meningitis, sepsis and skin and bladder infections.

Kids are at especially at risk because their immune systems are still developing and because they put almost anything in their mouths. Also, any cut or scrape not only can spread germs, they also can be open doors to infection.

The study found the plastic balls are rarely cleaned. In many instances, the dirt and grime left on the balls after months or longer of use was clearly visible. Of course, the same can be said of most public playgrounds and other play areas designed for lots of kids to use.

If your kids still insist on diving into the ball pits, make sure they thoroughly wash their hands, face and other exposed skin when they get out, especially if you plan to eat afterward.

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