A new study of inflatable “bounce houses” and “moonwalks” found that injuries, including concussions and broken bones, are skyrocketing for kids using the playthings. Researchers are recommending that national safety guidelines be developed for them, and that children under age six shouldn’t be allowed to play in them.
The study by researchers at the Center for Injury Research and Policy of The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital was published online Monday in the journal pediatrics. It involved looking at inflatable bounce houses, which fairs and parties sometimes use as an amusement for kids.
Researchers found that from 1995 to 2010 there was a 15-fold increase in the number of inflatable bouncer-related injuries that were treated in U.S. emergency departments among children younger than 18 years of age, according to a press release from Children’s Hospital.
In 2010 alone, more than 30 children a day, or about one child every 45 minutes, were treated in hospital emergency departments for injuries associated with inflatable bouncers.
The study, which will also be published in the December print issue of Pediatrics, found that while fractures (28 percent) and strains or sprains (27 percent) were the most common types of injuries, roughly one-in-five injuries (19 percent) were to the head and neck, “demonstrating that use of these products can pose serious risks,” the press release said.
Falls (43 percent) were the most common cause of injury followed by stunts and collisions, the study found. The majority of the injuries occurred either in a recreational setting (44 percent) or at home (38 percent).
“The findings from this study show that there has been an alarming increase in the number of injuries from inflatable bouncers,” Dr. Gary Smith, director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy, said in a statement. “It is time for us to take action to prevent these injuries. Ensuring that parents are aware of the potential risks, improving surveillance of the injuries, developing national safety guidelines and improving bouncer design are the first steps.”
The authors of the study said that the injury patterns for inflatable bouncers and trampolines are very similar, and although there are national safety guidelines for trampoline use, there aren’t any guidelines for inflatable bouncers.
“The medical and public health community has yet to provide recommendations on the safe use of inflatable bouncers,” said Smith, who is also a professor of pediatrics at the Ohio State University College of Medicine. “The growing epidemic of inflatable bouncer injuries make it clear that it is time to do so.”
“Until national safety guidelines are in place, parents should consider the risks before allowing their child to use an inflatable bouncer,” the press release warns. “If parents allow their child to use an inflatable bouncer, they should consider limiting use to children 6 years of age and older, requiring that an adult be present to supervise while the bouncer is in use and allowing only one child on the bouncer at a time. If more than one child will be on the bouncer at the same time, the children should be approximately of the same age and size.”
This is the first study to use a nationally representative sample to examine injuries associated with inflatable bouncer-related injuries that were treated in U.S. emergency departments. Data for this study were obtained from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS), which is operated by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. The NEISS provides information on consumer product-related and sports and recreation-related injuries treated in hospital emergency departments across the country.
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