They may be a big hit at kids' birthday parties, but inflatable bounce houses can be dangerous, with the number of injuries soaring in recent years, a nationwide study found.
Kids often crowd into bounce houses, and jumping up and down can send other children flying into the air, too.
The numbers suggest 30 U.S. children a day are treated in emergency rooms for broken bones, sprains, cuts and concussions from bounce house accidents. Most involve children falling inside or out of the inflated playthings, and many children get hurt when they collide with other bouncing kids.
The number of children aged 17 and younger who got emergency-room treatment for bounce house injuries has climbed along with the popularity of bounce houses - from fewer than 1,000 in 1995 to nearly 11,000 in 2010. That's a 15-fold increase, and a doubling just since 2008.
"I would bet that a lot of those injuries are from the smaller companies and from owning your own inflatable at home. Because if you're setting up properly, and you're supervising it, your risk of injury goes way, way down," said Adam Brown, marketing director for Fun Services of Kansas City.
The spike in injuries also reflects the growing number of inflatable's companies, like Fun Services, the largest in the area.
At Fun Services, they don't just hand customers a bounce house and walk away.
"We give four-page instructions that show exactly how to set it up, have pictures and descriptions of how to do it properly," Brown said.
And that eliminates a lot of the risk.
Fun Services uses weighted sandbags, and heavy steel stakes, to keep the equipment in place, and the pieces here are high-quality, unlike what people might buy on a retail shelf.
"You also have things like a net in the front to keep kids from just tumbling out," he said.
But still they say don't leave that to chance, the most important safety step is adult supervision.
"Having an adult know how many kids at a time are supposed to be in there, stopping rough-housing, flipping, jumping, wrestling with each other, those are the kinds of things you want to avoid," Brown said.
National surveillance data on ER treatment for nonfatal injuries linked with bounce houses, maintained by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, was published online Monday in the journal Pediatrics.
Only about 3 percent of children were hospitalized, mostly for broken bones.
More than one-third of the injuries were in children aged 5 and younger. The safety commission recommends against letting children younger than 6 use full-size trampolines, and Smith said barring kids that young from even smaller, home-use bounce houses would make sense.
The study didn't include deaths, but some accidents are fatal. Separate data from the product safety commission show four bounce house deaths from 2003 to 2007, all involving children striking their heads on a hard surface.
Several nonfatal accidents occurred last year when bounce houses collapsed or were lifted by high winds.
Bounce house injuries are similar to those linked with trampolines, and the American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended against using trampolines at home. Policymakers should consider whether bounce houses warrant similar precautions, the authors said.
Copyright 2012 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) and The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
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