Runaway Bounce Houses Show Dangers of Inflatables

PHOTO: A bounce house went airborne, slamming into lamp posts and a car, July 4, 2014.
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An runaway inflatable slide injured three people during an Independence Day celebration in Sparks, Nev., after wind pulled the slide from its tethers just as the final safety checks were being conducted.

The slide -- which rose 300 feet in the air and knocked down lamp posts -- is just the latest inflatable to cause injuries after being ripped from the ground by high winds.

In May a flyaway inflatable bounce house led to two children being hospitalized after they became trapped when the house became unmoored and rolled across a park. Earlier this year another bounce house went airborne with children inside.

According to experts these incidents aren't isolated but part of a scary trend of children are being injured in bounce houses.

A study released in 2012 in the journal Pediatrics found that the number of children injured in bounce houses had doubled from 2008 to 2010, when 11,300 kids were injured. That number is also 16 times the number of kids injured in 1995. The majority of those injured had broken bones followed by bumps and bruises and concussions.

That "equals a child every 46 minutes nationally," wrote the authors from the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. "This epidemic increase highlights the urgency of addressing the prevention of inflatable bouncer-related injuries among children."

Dr. Gary Smith, a pediatrician and president of Child Injury Prevention Alliance, worked on the 2012 study and said he believes that the increase in injuries was due to a sudden increase in popularity for the inflatables. Smith also said he expects the inflatables have only continued to increase in popularity since the study was published.

"That's an epidemic by any definition," Smith told ABC News. "If this was an infectious disease it would be on the front page of every newspaper in the country."

Smith said one difficulty in keeping children safe is that there are many kinds of bounce houses and inflatable slides and few regulations to ensure safety. Smith called the inflatables "a broad target" for regulators.

"[The federal government's] Consumer Product Safety Association have recommendations [but] they are very concerned about this," Smith said. "They're very keen to take a look at this that they might step in and make some stronger recommendations."

Smith isn't saying parents should never let their kids set foot in a bouncy castle again, instead he recommends parents use good judgment. He says only children of similar size and age should use the device at one time.

If it's a professionally run operation he says parents can ask the operator about their training and experience. Additionally if there's any kind of wind, Smith advises parents to steer their kid away from the bouncy castle or slide.

More information about bounce house safety can be found here.

ABC News' Katie Moisse contributed to this article.

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