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Beware of the bounce houses

There's still a lot of summer left for kids to cram as much fun as possible into the long, hot days. It's quite likely that your child will be invited to birthday parties or other festivities where one of the attractions is a "bounce house."

You've seen them at fairs, carnivals and private homes, those brightly-colored inflatable amusements where kids can wear out an afternoon's worth of energy leaping and jumping among friends within the confines of the structure's walls. But what dangers do they actually pose to children?

Injury rates have skyrocketed

The federal Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) tracked injuries to children from these popular amusements. In the five-year period between 2008 - 2013, the CPSC discovered that 82,203 got hurt while using the attractions, with over 90 percent suffering injuries from "moon bounces."

The CPSC cited 12 facilities involving moon bounces in the decade between 2003-2013.

These figures only look at those who sought treatment at Emergency Rooms, ignoring the many others whose bruises and scrapes were treated at home.

Because inflatable bounce attractions have gained popularity in recent years, the reports of injuries have risen accordingly. Most kids suffer injuries to their extremities, but 15 percent also had damage done to their faces and heads.

According to the results of one 2010 study the Pediatrics journal published, every 46 minutes, a kid suffered injuries in a bounce house.

Summer a high-risk season for bounce house injuries

One ER doctor with the Children's National Medical Center said, "Especially during the summer, it is very common for. . . children [to be] . . . injured on moon bounces."

One incident that stood out for the physician happened when a couple kids jumping inside an improperly secured inflatable blew off in a strong wind gust. While the injuries were luckily only minor, the children could have been killed.

The Pediatrics study authors referred to the uptick of injuries in bounce houses as an "epidemic," comparing the severity and similarity of injuries to those from trampoline usage. The American Academy of Pediatrics advises parents not to permit kids to jump on trampolines in the backyard.

The risk of bounce house injuries is due, in part, to the lack of safety standards in the United States. Manufacturers can voluntarily establish and abide by safety precautions, but they aren't required to.

Protecting kids is a parent's job

Parents can't protect their kids from all of life's hazards, but they can mitigate the potential for damages. It's unrealistic to think that kids will never jump around in an inflatable attraction at a park, fair or party.

Parents can reduce risks by assuring the inflatables are securely staked and keeping a close eye on the weather. Also, don't allow your kids to jump in overloaded bounce houses or with kids who are far older or who outweigh them by more that a few pounds.

If your child gets injured in a bounce house, you must take the legal steps necessary to ensure that they receive the medical treatment they require -- both now and in the future.

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