Bounce House Safety for Children

by: Dan Florell, Ph.D.

“Bounce house!” screamed the little girl as she sprinted out towards the inflatable that had recently appeared in her yard.

Several children were hot on her heels and soon shouts of joy could be heard from the bounce house. This was quickly replaced by the sound of crying as the little girl came crawling out.

“Those big boys came and landed on me and hurt my arm,” said the little girl in between sobs.

While bounce houses seem to be everywhere and are a staple of birthday parties and other gatherings, parents need to be aware that there are dangers. The journal Pediatrics reported that roughly 31 children are injured in inflatable bounce houses every day. These injuries are likely to increase during the summer months as more kids use bounce houses.

Bounce houses are appropriately named and it is easy to predict what type of injuries can occur when kids go flying through the air. The common bounce house injuries include sprains, fractures, abrasions, and head injuries.

Due to the risk of injury, parents need to take appropriate precautions before allowing their children to play in a bounce house or other inflatables. The first precaution is to make sure an adult is supervising children who are in the inflatable. This means the adult is actively watching and is not merely close to the inflatable while checking a cell phone.

The supervising adult should serve as a gatekeeper so that the inflatable does not have too many children in it at any one time. There are greater odds that an injury will occur as more children get on the inflatable. A recommended capacity should be posted on all inflatables that parents or other adults can use as a guide.

Another precaution is to not let children of significantly different sizes on the inflatable at the same time. Just as happened in the above scenario, little children are at much greater risk of injury when there are bigger children around.

Size matters and most inflatables are not designed for adolescents or adults. If either is on an inflatable, children are better off staying off it. On the opposite side of the spectrum, it is recommended that children who are under six years old to not play on inflatables due to their small size.

Once children are on an inflatable, there should be a few general rules of conduct. Children should not push others off the inflatable. They also should not bounce against any walls or crash into one another. Finally, children should avoid doing flips and other rough play. These basic rules of conduct should avoid most of the common injuries associated with inflatables.

If parents hire a company to provide inflatables for an outdoor event, there are some additional precautions. First, an inflatable should never be used when it is windy as there have been several incidents where inflatables have been blown up to 40 feet in the air resulting in severe injuries to the children who were inside at the time. Second, the inflatable should be firmly staked to the ground with 30 to 40 inch steel rods. Third, make sure the company is fully insured.

Inflatables can be a fun activity for children. However, there is a risk of injury if precautions are not taken. Parents should make sure to actively supervise an inflatable when it is being used and establish some rules of conduct for children who are using it. Don’t let what is supposed to be a fun activity end in tears.

This article was published in the Richmond Register daily Sunday on July 12, 2015

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