You're A Germaphobe If You arrive at the park in a hazmat suit to disinfect the jungle gym and scoop out any undesirables from the sandbox.
The Dirt Just because your kid will probably dangle from the same monkey bars that a sick child touched at some point doesn't mean you have to deprive him of his social hour. Viruses, like those spread when kids sneeze and cough, can live on outdoor equipment anywhere from a few minutes to a couple of days. But for the most part they usually aren't cause for concern. Your child would have to touch the precise spot where another child had left her germs moments earlier and then immediately touch his eyes, mouth, or nose to become infected. More encouraging news: Although squirrels, cats, and other critters have been known to do their business in sandboxes, related cases of gastrointestinal-related illnesses are few and far between, says Dr. Sawyer.
Stay-Healthy Strategy Don't allow children to eat or drink anything while in a sandbox or before washing their hands after playing in a sandbox. If soap and water aren't available, be sure to clean your child's hands thoroughly with baby wipes before she eats in order to get rid of dirt, sand, and possible animal waste. (This is one instance where hand sanitizer won't do the trick; the alcohol can't remove those offending particles.) And don't forget to cover the sandbox at home.