Bouncy houses have become a go-to activity for childrens’ birthday parties and other outdoor celebrations that include kids. But, as a recent study in the journal Pediatrics finds, they’re not without risk.
Claire McCarthy, a primary care physician and medical director of Boston Children’s Hospital’s Martha Eliot Health Center, advises parents on KevinMD.com to be mindful of the potential danger if they’re considering renting a bouncy house, and to take measures to minimize it.
Between 1990 and 2010, about 65,000 children were treated in U.S. emergency rooms for injuries they got in bouncy houses. “That’s about 31 kids a day,” McCarthy writes. According to Pediatrics, the number and rate of injuries increased fifteen-fold during the study’s 20-year period.
Most of the injuries were arm and leg fractures or sprains. Fortunately, only 3 in 100 required hospitalization. More than half of the injured kids were 6 to 12 years old; most of the rest were younger.
A bouncy house seems like a safe, padded environment to horse around in, but it still presents a lot of ways for a kid to get hurt. Most of the injuries documented in the Pediatrics study resulted from falls, many of them falling out of the bouncy house, but kids pushing, pulling and crashing into each other caused a lot of hurt, too.
This isn’t to suggest you reject the idea of a bouncy house for your child’s party—but you should take some precautions. Like wearing helmets when you ride a bike, there are guidelines for using bouncy houses, also known as “inflatable amusement devices.” The Pediatrics researchers suggest that, beyond the manufacturers’ information, rules should be devised similar to those for trampolines, because the injuries are very similar.
The best thing you can do, McCarthy says, is use common sense:
- Always follow the manufacturer’s directions and safety guidelines.
- Be especially careful with children younger than 6, or wait until kids are that old to use a bouncy house.
- Don’t overcrowd the house--keep numbers of kids using it small. Everyone inside should have their own personal space.
- Make sure kids keep body parts to themselves.
- No flips or other stunts.
- Supervise! Make sure there are enough grownups to monitor the bouncy house activity at all times during its use, and make sure they enforce the rules.
- Have zero tolerance for rough-housing or other dangerous behavior. Consider using a whistle, like a lifeguard.
For more specific, detailed guidelines on bouncy house use, consult the Consumer Products Safety Commission guidelines.