Researchers Reveal the Dark Side of Bounce Houses


UGA researchers suspect that heat-related illness is an underreported hazard of bounce houses. Kids (and adults) also have been known to fracture, sprain and strain their various extremities while hopping around in an inflatable. Paul Velgos/Getty Images
UGA researchers suspect that heat-related illness is an underreported hazard of bounce houses. Kids (and adults) also have been known to fracture, sprain and strain their various extremities while hopping around in an inflatable. Paul Velgos/Getty Images

You wouldn't let a candy-house witch bake your child in an oven, so why are you cool with outdoor bounce houses? That's the question posed by new research published in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society.

Sure, nobody wants to cook children alive in an inflatable fun castle, but a research team at the University of Georgia, Athens, suggests you just might be running that risk if you blow up one of these party hoppers on an already hot day.

Think about it: What's the difference between an unattended car in a grocery store parking lot and a slide-equipped bounce-o-rama? Obvious fun disparity aside, both constitute a solar-heated microclimate environment with limited ventilation. 

The UGA team found that temperatures inside a bounce house can exceed ambient outside temperatures by up to 6.7 degrees Fahrenheit (3.7 degrees Celsius), peaking at up to 8.1 F (4.5 C) higher. When the researchers busted out their own bounce house during July 2015, they observed peak internal temperatures exceeding 100 F (38 C), nearly 7 F (3.9 C) more than outside temperatures.

On an already hot summer day, that heat boost is enough to push conditions into the danger zone, especially for children who experience greater sensitivity to heat. Plus, it's not like they're lounging around in there reading "Goodnight Moon." Your local indoor bounce house is full of sweaty children, and they have the benefit of air conditioning and a nonstop loop of "Let It Go." 

The UGA study identifies only one known case of child heatstroke in a bounce house, and they stress that the risk factor is pure mathematics.

So keep a close eye on those bouncing children. Keep them hydrated. Insist on occasional breaks and watch for signs of overheating like fatigue, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, and flushed, moist skin.

Of course, the vomiting might just be due to all the birthday cake icing and bounce time. Either way, it's time for little Sally to take a breather.

You can always show her this video from "The Mighty Boosh" while you wait: