Preventing bounce house nightmares and injuries

Keeping Kids Safe

The number of injuries from inflatable bounce houses has skyrocketed over the last 20 years to more than 30 children hurt each day — that’s about one every 45 minutes — according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Some of those injuries were severe, while others were deadly.

If you have children, you know bounce houses are the best thing to spot at a summer fair or birthday party. But for some parents, they feel like the inflatables are an accident waiting to happen.

Terrifying accidents, whether due to weather or operator error, have been captured on video and shared on social media thousands of times.

Dr. Sheryl Handler is a pediatric orthopedic surgeon at Akron Children’s Hospital in Boardman. She’s seen the significant rise in bounce house accidents and injuries over the last few years.

“Bounce houses are always thought to be pretty benign,” Handler said. “You go to a party or a picnic and think your kid’s going to have fun. The last thing you expect to happen is for them to have a catastrophic injury like a fracture of their leg, an extremity or worse — even a neck injury that results in paralysis or a concussion.”

Just in the summer months alone, Handler said she could see anywhere from 15 to 20 patients with injuries related to bounce houses.

According to emergency room data, the Consumer Product Safety Commission reported close to 19,000 injuries in 2012 caused as a result of moon bounces, bounce houses and inflatable amusement parks.

But even that data could be much higher based on the number of unreported injuries like sprains, strains, cuts and abrasions.

“In a very short period of time, very severe injuries can happen and most commonly, it’s because of lack of supervision of the adults that are watching the children in the bounce house,” Handler said.

She said most of the injuries she treats happen inside the bounce house, often from kids falling and fracturing an arm or leg, or crashing into another child.

Handler said the emergency department has treated everything from broken bones and noses to severe concussions — even cases of heat exhaustion and stroke.

But she’s seen worse.

“A severely broken ankle fracture that involved a growth plate that caused problems with the growth of a child later on, requiring several surgeries,” Handler said.

Experts said bounce house injuries are on the rise, not just because of unsafe practices, but also because there are more opportunities for children to use them.

Ohio and Pennsylvania are among only a handful of states that regulate inflatables, meaning someone is in charge of distributing and looking over permits, inspections and insurance.

Ohio bounce house regulation

Pennsylvania bounce house regulation

Even with all of those precautions, Handler suggests that parents can keep children the safest with their undivided attention.

“Kids are going to be kids and are going to get injured, and that’s something we need to accept,” she said.

She also recommends that children of similar age and weight play together to lower the risk of injury due to an uneven amount of weight and force as kids jump around.

“However, we can do our best as parents, and adults and doctors to make sure that the kids are at least in an environment that’s ideal for them to not get injured.”

Tips to prevent bounce house injuries (Source: healthychildren.org)

  • Follow all recommended guidelines for safe installation, including anchoring
  • Keep bounce houses away from fences, greenhouses, branches, etc.
  • Consider limiting use to children 6 years of age and older
  • Kids should take off shoes, glasses and jewelry before going in, and they should not be holding or keeping in pockets any sharp objects, like pens or keys
  • Don’t let big kids and small kids bounce at the same time
  • Don’t let adults or older children who are larger than the height and weight limit bounce
  • Food, drink, bottles, etc. shouldn’t be taken inside the bounce house
  • Close supervision at all times
  • Follow the recommended limit on number of kids inside at any given time, and make sure kids are getting on and off in a controlled manner
  • Don’t let children climb on the outside walls
  • Flips and rough play should not be allowed

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