The Delights and Dangers of Slime

If you have older children in your home, chances are you have heard of the slime craze! Dr. Carolyn McClain, MD, from our partners at The Urgency Room, is here with a few things parents need to know and the potential dangers surrounding slime.

The Delights and Dangers of Slime | Twin Cities Moms Blog

They call themselves Slimers. These elementary and middle school age kids have made the makers of Elmer’s glue very, very happy. They make slime by the gallons, and glitz it up with food coloring, glitter, beads, and sparkles. And then these young entrepreneurs sell it to their friends at school for a tidy profit. If your children are younger and have not discovered the joys of slime yet, just wait….they will.

The Delights

The Delights and Dangers of Slime | Twin Cities Moms Blog

My 10-year-old daughter Katherine is in fifth grade. She and her friends are right in the middle of the slime craze. They make it. They celebrate their birthdays with it. They squish it in their hands for hours at a time. My daughter tells me she makes slime because “It’s just fun.” I don’t get why it’s fun but believe me, most 10-year-olds do.

Kids are hand-making slime from several different recipes, but the most famous is the recipe that includes warm water, Elmer’s glue, food coloring, and Borax. It’s the one that kids love because it has the best consistency. It’s stretchy and slimy and—according to Katherine—awesome.

“I’ve watched a lot of videos about how to make slime,” Katherine says. “All of my friends make it. We play with it all the time. But my mom won’t let me make slime at home with Borax because she’s an ER doctor.”

She’s right. I won’t let her. That’s why we experimented. There are other recipes that don’t use Borax all over the internet. Warning: Most of them include food coloring and if it lands on your couch, you’ll never get it out. We discovered that without Borax, the slime is so sticky it’s really hard to clean and according to my daughter, not as fun to play with. But as Katherine says, “If you make it with contact lens solution, shaving cream, and glue it’s pretty good and it’s better than no slime.”

The Dangers

The Delights and Dangers of Slime | Twin Cities Moms Blog

There are many stories out there about how dangerous Borax is to our kids. I’d like to explain this vastly misunderstood ingredient. Borax, also known as sodium borate, is a natural salt that’s mined in California. It’s used as a household cleaner and for the most part, it’s safe to use. Just like regular salt, you don’t want to swallow it in large batches because that would be toxic to your body.

The place where Borax can be problematic is your skin. As an emergency physician, I’ve seen many children come into The Urgency Room with chemical burns on their hands. I always ask, “Have you played with slime in the last 24 hours?” And the answer is almost always, “Yes.”

It doesn’t happen frequently, but Borax can cause chemical burns to children who are sensitive to it. Especially if they make it with bare hands and then play with it all day. If they get a chemical burn, it usually won’t show up for about 24 hours after they’ve been playing with their DIY concoction, so a lot of parents don’t realize the burn is actually caused by the slime.

If your kids are like my daughter and want to continue to play with slime made from Borax, the best defense is to have them wear gloves while they make it and when they play with it. Then ask them to wash their hands and all the way up to their elbows to make sure no Borax remains on their skin. The longer the Borax is in contact with skin, the greater the chance of a chemical burn.

You’ll know your child has a chemical burn if her palms look chaffed. If they’re red, cracked, and painful it’s likely they have a burn. Blisters can develop as well. If you see these signs, make sure to bring your child to The Urgency Room to have a physician check to make sure it’s actually a chemical burn and not something else that could be of greater concern. The children who do get a chemical burn will be feeling better in about a week with simple treatments.

Katherine does not like it when I make her pack disposable gloves before going to a friend’s house where I know she’ll be playing with slime. “It’s really embarrassing mom,” she says. But she knows I’ve seen kids with burns, and they hurt for up to a week. I tell her it’s not any different than wearing a helmet while riding her bike or a seat belt in the car. I ruin all her fun.  

The good news is, the slime phase only lasts about a year or maybe two and then your child will move on to the next cool thing and her time as a Slimer will come to an end. In the meantime, protect her hands from chemical burns and protect your couches and rugs from stains.

Do other big trends with your kids have you worried? Let us know!

The Urgency Room (UR) is a state-of-the-art medical facility specializing in the treatment of acute injuries and illnesses in adults, children, and infants. Staffed with board-certified emergency physicians, the UR is prepared to handle it all. If you need immediate medical attention and don’t need an ambulance come to The Urgency Room.

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