Inflatable Bounce Houses Are Great Exercise for Children: What Parents Should Know About Safety

children's health and safety, Pediatrics
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Bouncing through moonwalks and sliding down inflatable slides are fun ways to get children a little extra physical activity, but keep in mind that injuries on inflatable bouncers has been increasing over the past two decades so parents should be on the lookout for safety assurances from inflatable bounce house operators.

In the journal Pediatrics, researchers have found that there are about five bounce house-related injuries per 100,000 US children every year – about 15 times higher than in 1995. The number of kids being brought into emergency rooms for the injuries increased from 702 that year to 11,311 children in 2010. In 2010 alone, more than 30 children per day were treated in hospital ERs for injuries related to inflatable bouncers.

The data comes from information from a database of injuries related to consumer products that were treated at about 100 ER’s across the country between 1990 and 2010. Overall, about 65,000 children and teens were injured during that time. Dr. Gary Smith MD DrPH, director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Ohio, led the research.

The majority of the treated children were between six and 12 years old – about half of the entire injured population. About a third were under five years old and the remainder were teens between 13 and 17.

Broken bones, fractures, and sprains were the most common injuries, each accounting for about 25% of the ER visits. Cuts, concussions, and bruises made up the rest. More serious injuries include those to the head and neck, which comprised approximately 1 in five cases.

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The main reason why more children are being injured – there are simply more children using inflatable bounce houses at parties, outdoor events, and in commercial locations such as Monkey Joe’s. John Carr, of the American Inflatable Alliance, suggests that children use bouncers as many as 643 million times per year. Sonny Crumpton, Monkey Joe's brand leader, says that since opening its first location in 2004, Monkey Joe's has reached 719,780 total hours of jumping at its 62 locations across the country.

While the number of injuries is rising due to increased utilization, there are still fewer injuries in bounce houses than on trampolines. The American Academy of Pediatrics estimates that there are 31 trampoline-related injuries per 100,000 US children each year. However, while there are national safety guidelines in place for trampoline use, no such guidelines exist for inflatable bouncers.

“The purpose (of the study) was not to be an alarmist, but to make sure parents understand the risks,” says Dr. Smith. “My personal philospophy is that we need to try to get children off the couch so that they are physically active and develop a healthy and active lifestyle, but (we want to) make sure parents are making informed decisions.”

Parents should wait until their children are six and older before allowing them to jump in a bounce house and that the children be supervised at all times. Younger children may not have the coordination skills or judgment needed to protect themselves inside the jump, says pediatric orthopedic surgeon Meghan Imrie MD at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital in Stanford. The number of kids inside the inflatable at any one time should be limited, and operators should group the children by size so that bigger children won’t accidentally injure smaller children.

Parents should also ensure the person operating the bounce house, moonwalk, or climber/slide follow all equipment safety instructors such as safely anchoring the house and having mats around the entrance and anywhere else a child could fall.

Journal Reference:
Meghan C. Thompson, Gary A. Smith, MD, DrPH et al. Pediatric Inflatable Bouncer–Related Injuries in the United States, 1990–2010. Pediatrics. Published online November 26, 2012. (doi: 10.1542/peds.2012-0473)

Additional Resource:
Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford

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