The People's Perspective on Medicine

Bounce Houses Pose Risk

Inflatable play equipment such as bounce houses or moon walks are popular but may be far riskier than parents imagine. What could be more fun than jumping high on a bouncy surface? It sure beats jumping on a bed.
Many parents have assumed that because the surfaces are all seemingly soft and air cushioned, that children are safe. But a new study in the journal Pediatrics suggests that the number of injuries attributed to inflatable bounce houses has skyrocketed over the last 15 years. In 2010 an average of 30 youngsters were injured each day from such equipment. Fractures, sprains and strains were most common, but there were also serious head and neck injuries. The authors urge parents to supervise their children, restrict the use to kids at least 6 years old and only allow one child at a time on the equipment.
[Pediatrics, Dec. 2012]

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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.” .
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A ride inspector can tell you that Inflatables are considered the riskiest amusement device. That of course, reflects the large number of them out there, but it also reflects the lack of respect these get. Kids can and do get hurt and even killed in inflatable rides. And there are tons of them owned by small operators renting them out. And often they don’t have inspection permits, safety training, insurance or maintenance.
Those are the ‘background’ issues. Once the ride is set up the owner is responsible for having trained personal on site constantly and have documentation of that training. If a bounce is dropped off to be run by somebody else, that person has to be trained and documented. At no time should there be children in an unattended inflatable. Larger set-ups may require two attendants, to be determined by the manufacturer, state regulations and insurance company. Safety check lists/inspection sheets need to be completed every time the device is set up. Adequate anchors are vital. Children have been killed when a wind sends a bounce house flying into the air. For instance in mud or on a sandy beach you need to be sure you have proper anchors for the situation. But don’t assume indoor set-ups are risk free, the same rules apply.
As a parent you should be sure there is an attendant, look for a sticker that states the ride has been inspected, and watch for overcrowding and having mixed age groups, bouncing big kids can hurt little kids. Of course an properly trained attendant will monitor for those things, but it’s your kid, use common sense.

As someone “in the trade,” so to speak, who works next door to a lot of bouncy houses at public events, this information poses a rousing “duh…” Of COURSE injuries have increased; there are bouncy houses EVERYWHERE you go, and few of them are supervised by anyone, let alone parents. I’m astonished at how many parents turn their kids loose in the “children’s area” and disappear. I’ve never had a parent ask about supervision, or insurance, or liability. If the bouncy houses are free to play on, do you really think there’s a liability policy in force?
The advice to only let one child in at a time is pretty inane. What’s the point of playing by yourself? You can do that at home.
I would be MUCH more interested to know if these are actual NEW injuries to children, or replacement/displacement injuries. Activity is dangerous. Kids get hurt. Kids get hurt on playgrounds, on ball fields, and any other activities. The real problem is that kids get hurt FAR worse, only more slowly and permanently, when they DON’T exercise at all.
I’ve also seen reports that childhood accident rates are increasing concurrent with driving accident rates attributed to texting while driving, aka “texting while parenting.” The availability of bouncy houses is pretty linear with cell phone usage.
> In 2010 an average of 30 youngsters were injured each day
Department of manipulated data alert on this point. Bouncy houses are almost exclusively a weekend item, so it’s probably worse–I would bet the real data show that the rate is closer to 100 kids / day on Saturdays and Sundays, rather than 30/day week-in week-out.

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