Injuries sustained while playing on inflatable toys such as bouncy castles have increased at a rapid rate over the last two decades.
The researchers found that the rate of inflatable bouncer-related injuries in children under the age of 18 years treated in US emergency departments (EDs) increased 15-fold between 1995 and 2010.
They note that according to the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System in the USA in 2010, about one child every 45 minutes was treated for this type of injury.
"The findings from this study show that there has been an alarming increase in the number of injuries from inflatable bouncers," said study author Gary Smith (Nationwide Children's Hospital, Columbus, Ohio, USA) in a press statement.
"It is time for us to take action to prevent these injuries. Ensuring that parents are aware of the potential risks, improving surveillance of the injuries, developing national safety guidelines and improving bouncer design are the first steps."
Writing in Pediatrics, the researchers report that an estimated 64,657 children were treated in EDs around the US for inflatable bouncer-related injuries between 1990 and 2010, with a mean rate per year of 5.28 injuries per 100,000 US children.
Over the 15-year period between 1995 and 2010 the rate went up 15-fold, although the increase was more rapid over recent years with the annual injury number and rate more than doubling through 2008 to 2010.
Regarding the types of injury, Smith and team say they strongly resemble the kind sustained during trampolining. Most were fractures (27.5%), followed by strains or sprains (27.3%), with the majority of injuries occurring to the lower or upper extremities (32.9% and 29.7%, respectively). Slightly more patients were boys, at 54.6%, and the average age of the children was 7.5 years.
"The medical and public health community has yet to provide recommendations on the safe use of inflatable bouncers," said Smith. "The growing epidemic of inflatable bouncer injuries make it clear that it is time to do so."
In the meantime, the authors suggest that parents should consider limiting bouncer usage to children over the age of 6 years, make sure a supervising adult is present when in use, and ensure that if more than one child is on the bouncer they are of a similar age and weight to minimize injury risks.
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