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Springing safely in bounce houses

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OUTLOOK PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - When two children are playing in a bounce house, they can track each other. But when you add a third or more to mix, that's when injuries happen.Bounce houses are big fun at block parties and birthday bashes, but it’s important to protect children from leaping into serious injuries in these inflatable play yards.

“Unsafe play in bounce houses can lead to simple musculoskeletal injuries such as bruises and abrasions and to more serious injuries such as broken bones and compound fractures — that is where the bone is sticking through -— to even more serious injuries such as head and spinal cord injuries,” said Dr. Andy Barnett, Medical Director for Legacy GoHealth Urgent Care.

From 1990 to 2000 more than 64,000 children were rushed to the emergency room with injuries that happened while playing in a bounce house, a study published in the December 2012 issue of “Pediatrics” found. From 2008 to 2010 the rate of injuries doubled to an average of 31 per day, the study said. At least 10 children have been killed in bounce castle-related injuries.

But the colorful contraptions are fun for children, so here are some tips to be safer.

“Limiting the number of kids in there at a time” is probably the most important precaution, said Barnett. When there are lots of youngsters careening around inside, that presents “the highest risk for injuries.” Most of the injuries happen person to person “when one participant comes down on top of another,” Barnett said.

It is also dangerous for kids to climb on the walls, bounce against the walls or out onto the ground. This is more common with trampolines, but is also a danger with bounce houses.

The best scenario would be allowing only one child in the structure at a time, but two should be the limit. COURTESY PHOTO - Dr. Andy Barnett, Medical Director for Legacy GoHealth Urgent Care.“Two people can track one another, but when you add a third, that’s when injuries happen,” Barnett said.

Children under 6 should probably not be allowed in a bounce house, Barnett said. Bouncers should be roughly the same size. “Small and large children colliding can be dangerous,” Barnett said. Children should leave drinks and food outside and take off shoes, glasses and jewelry and empty their pockets before they even start bouncing.

The bouncers should be reminded of the rules about no pushing, no rough play, no flips and the like. And, an adult should be supervising at all times to make sure the rules are being followed. A parent or guardian is the best choice.

“The general idea here is about the supervision by an adult who is invested in the safety of the kids, not an attendant,” Barnett said.

Bounce houses can also get hot if sitting in the sun. “There can be heat related problems such as dehydration,” said Barnett, “take the typical precautions: limit activity and keep the children hydrated.”

Make sure the bounce house is installed and anchored properly and you are following the directions about weather conditions.

Have fun, but be careful in there.