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Do Bounce Houses Pose the Same Heat Dangers to Kids as Hot Cars?

Blog Do Bounce Houses Pose the Same Heat Dangers to Kids as Hot Cars?

“I wouldn’t say you should never let kids use bounce houses, but I would advise being mindful of their condition, as well as who else is in there,” Dr. McKenna says

Their bright colors and cushioned buoyancy prove irresistible to many children, but bounce houses, increasingly popular entertainment at kids’ parties, can harbor heat exhaustion dangers, say the authors of a new study.

Researchers compared the temperature inside a bounce house in Athens, Georgia, to the temperature outside in the shade one afternoon in July. What they found was an average temperature of 94 degrees in the bounce structure, 4 degrees higher than what it was in nearby shade. At its temperature peak, however, the heat rose to over 100 degrees or almost 7 degrees higher inside the bounce house. What’s more, the authors of the study reported that temps felt like between 104 and 117 degrees in the bounce house, hot enough to cause heat exhaustion or heatstroke.

They concluded that bounce houses can create “microclimates” similar to that of parked cars. Reports indicating that temperatures inside closed cars can reach more than 120 degrees in an hour even when the temp outside is in the low 80s, have significantly increased public awareness of the heat hazards to kids and animals left unattended in cars. But because cars have glass windows that let in and trap sunlight and heat, and bounce houses do not, the comparison might be a little alarmist, says Dr. Michael McKenna a pediatrician at the Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health.

 “I wouldn’t say you should never let kids use bounce houses, but I would advise being mindful of their condition, as well as who else is in there,” Dr. McKenna says

Too many kids inside the house or kids of vastly different ages jumping together can create more opportunity for injury, Dr. McKenna says, explaining that a 10 year old, for example, might not be aware enough to stay away from smaller children to keep them safe. In turn, 4 year olds likely won’t know enough to steer clear of the bigger kids.

The injury scenario Dr. McKenna describes jibes with recent statistics. The number of emergency visits related to “inflatable amusements,” the industry term for bounce houses and similar playthings such as inflatable slides, usually involve injuries to a limb, according to US Consumer Product Safety Commission figures. Reported ER visits rose consistently between 2003 and 2013, totaling more than 113,000 in a decade, they found. Bounce houses were also tied to 12 deaths, mostly from head and neck injuries. Although internationally, there have been reports of children dying after improperly tethered bounce houses flew away with children inside them.

In general, parents should exercise the same cautions when kids are playing in a bounce house that they do when kids are at the playground, Dr. McKenna says.

“I think the takeaway from our study is to monitor your children and use common sense,” which should include mindfulness about how hot it can get inside bounce houses, says study co-author Andrew Grundstein, a climatologist.  “It’s difficult to give exact time limits, as there are a lot of factors that can influence how children react to heat, including their age, health and level of activity and hydration,” he continues. “But if it’s hot outside, it’s probably even hotter in the bounce house. Make sure to give the children rest breaks and water.”

-- By Virginia Pelley

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