A new warning about those popular bounce houses kids love: Injuries are skyrocketing. TODAY National Investigative Correspondent Jeff Rossen reports.
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My kids go in those bouncy houses all the time. They're big at birthday parties and theme parks. Some families even set them up in the backyard. As a parent, you think: What can happen? They're soft and cushy. But now there are alarming new numbers about kids getting seriously hurt.
It's a wake-up call for all of us: Those fun, inflatable houses, now responsible for a spike in injuries. Doctors call it an epidemic.
"More than 30 children are treated in a hospital emergency department every day in this country for an injury associated with an inflatable bouncer," Dr. Gary Smith of Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. "Thirty kids a day, and that equals a child every 45 minutes."
Dr. Smith is 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 two decades. ""Between 2008 and 2010, there was a doubling of injuries," he told us.Story: Rossen Reports: Many backyard decks collapse, experts warn
It happened to little Cassie Stapleton. Cassie was coming down a slide when she lost her balance and fell, breaking her arm in two places.
"Did you think in a million years, 'my daughter could be hurt in a bouncy house?'" we asked Cassie's mother, Rebecca Stapleton.
"Never, never," she said.
"We're all guilty of it, right? We turn our back and the kids are playing in there. You think they're safe."
"Absolutely," Rebecca agreed. "Even the floor is soft. You think there's nothing that can happen to them, but that's not the case."
According to the study, the most common injuries are sprains and fractures, some to the head and neck. Forty-three percent of injuries are caused by falls, most inside the bounce house, with some kids bouncing out of it. Sixteen percent of injuries are caused by other kids: collisions and roughhousing.Story: Rossen Reports: Are carnival games cheating you — and your kids?
"What should parents do?" we asked Dr. Smith.
“They should consider limiting the use to children 6 years and older, because we know the risks are less for that age group," he told us. And, he said, make sure the kids playing inside are all around the same age.
"So a 7-and-a-half-year-old shouldn't be in there with 3-and-a-half-year olds?" we asked.
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The industry told us it can't comment on the study, but said safety is a top priority, the frequency of injuries is incredibly low, and most happen because of misuse, or failure to follow guidelines.Story: Rossen Reports: Crib products may be deadly, experts say
Cassie Stapleton is all healed now. But her mom will never forget that day she raced her to the ER.
"You have to keep an eye on them every second," Rebecca Stapleton said. "If they're in a bounce house, they're not always fool-proof, they're not always safe, and it's something that you really need to make sure you're always on top of."
No one is saying "stay away from bounce houses." Even Cassie's parents still bring her. Just know the risks. There are safety guidelines for bounce houses, but experts say that may not be enough. Manufacturers and doctors need to get together and figure out a better way to design these houses, to keep kids safer.
As for kids doing flips and acrobatics in bounce houses, doctors say: Don't do it. Some of the most serious injuries to the head and neck are caused by stunts. They say, talk to your kids before they go in, and set the ground rules. And if kids are getting too rough, get them out.
To read a full statement from a spokesperson for the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions, click here .
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