You might expect your kids to bring home some unwanted souvenirs from a party, like a goodie bag full of plastic toys that will end up gathering dust under the couch in less than a week. But one family brought home something much worse than plastic army men when their child got a staph infection from playing in a bouncy house.
Brenda Sanderson’s two sons played in an inflatable bounce house as part of a graduation celebration earlier this summer. Two days later, Sanderson saw marks on one of her child’s body, but believing them to be the result of friction caused by wrestling and jumping in the bounce house, she put antibacterial ointment on the areas and thought nothing of it. Rather than improving, the spots grew much larger in size and became painful, open sores. Sanderson took her son to the doctor, where she was shocked to learn he had contracted a staph infection from the bounce house.
It’s no surprise that inflatable playhouses pose safety risks. There have been several recent reports of children being injured when an improperly secured bounce house was lifted into the air by a particularly strong gust of wind. But there are other reasons you might want to look into renting a magician for your child’s upcoming birthday party instead.
Even if the bounce house remains on the ground, there can still be injuries as the result of children playing inside. Although a bounce house might seem safe because it’s soft, there’s still the potential for injury. That unstable surface combined with a sugar high and no parents within arm’s reach can cause falls or collision injuries. It’s estimated that 31 children a day are treated in emergency rooms for bounce house-related injuries in the U.S.
If your child manages to avoid bumping into another or falling out of the bounce house, Sanderson and her children learned the hard way that there’s a risk of illness from germs when you come in contact with the surface of the bounce house. Germs like staph linger on unwashed plastic surfaces like wrestling mats or bounce houses. (And those plastic ball pits that are such a big reason you take the kids to fast-food restaurants in the winter? Scientists have found they also carry bacteria when not properly and regularly washed.)
If you still don’t have the heart to tell your kids to stay out of the bounce house and away from the ball pit, there are measures you can take to try to protect yourselves. Wash your children’s hands as soon as they get out of the bounce house, or use an antibacterial gel like Purell if you can’t get to a sink. And give them a bath or shower as soon as possible to remove any lingering bacteria. If you’re renting the bounce house for your own party, your guests will be grateful if you wipe down the inside with a mild cleanser before your guests arrive (you can take a few bounces while know one’s looking as your reward for being so proactive). And keep a close eye on children in the bounce house to try to head off ill-advised stunts before they happen.
Sure, they’re a great way to tell the neighbors that you’re having a party and an easy way for guests to locate your house, but with such serious health and safety risks, it may be time for the bounce house trend to fade away. Who’s up for a birthday party with some good old-fashioned kickball?