News | Published December 21, 2012

Are bounce houses worth the fun?

It sure seems like everything we used to look at as fun is being shown to be dangerous.

A recent report on NBC News by Jeff Rossen is pointing fingers at bounce houses - those fun, inflatable toys that are a staple at birthday parties and are increasingly found in backyards throughout our neighborhoods - and that the injuries they cause are becoming an epidemic, some doctors say.

"More than 30 children are treated in a hospital emergency department every day in this country for an injury associated with an inflatable bouncer," says Gary Smith, MD, of Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, OH, who was interviewed for the NBC News story. "Thirty kids a day, and that equals a child every 45 minutes."

In addition to being part of this news story, Dr. Smith is a senior author of a new landmark study in the journal Pediatrics that, for the first time, looks at bounce house injuries nationwide over the past 20 years.

According to the study, the most common injuries are sprains and fractures, some to the head and neck. Falls account for 43 percent of injuries - most inside the bounce house but some due to children bouncing out of the structure. Collisions between children and roughhousing account for 16 percent of injuries.

Dr. Smith said that parents should "consider limiting the use (of bounce houses) to children six years and older, because we know the risks are less for that age group." He also said that kids playing in the bounce house should all be around the same age - avoid having four year olds playing in bounce houses with 10 years olds, for example.

Other things to avoid - having parents in the structure with children, doing flips and acrobatics inside bounce houses.

It's also important to talk to children before they go in to bounce houses - and set ground rules for playing in them. And be prepared to remove children from bounce houses if they are getting too rough.

The recommendations discussed focus on increasing knowledge and helping parents to know when the popular bounce houses are appropriate and when there is a higher likelihood of injury from them. Parents need to make these types of choices for their children.