Warning: Popular “Child-Friendly” Activity Is Spreading Serious Infection Among Kids

You might want to make other plans for your kid's next birthday party. This is terrifying.

June 13, 2017
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For one Massachusetts mom, a joyful children’s party turned into a mother’s worst nightmare.

Brenda Sanderson’s two sons were thrilled to attend a graduation party in the summer of 2015. It had everything, including an inflatable, enclosed trampoline known as a “bounce house.” The boys gleefully entered the bounce house and did what you do in bounce houses—they jumped, they wrestled, they rolled and slid.

Everything seemed fine. Two days later, though, Sanderson saw some funny blemishes on her 10-year-old’s arm. She asked him where they came from. Sanderson relayed the ensuing conversation to Fox 25 News in Boston.

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“He said, ‘Well, Mommy, I think it’s from sliding around and bouncing around the bouncy house. I think I just got burned from the plastic because it was hot.”

So Sanderson treated her boy for a burn.

She covered the marks with Neosporin and kept an eye on them. To her horror, the blemishes didn’t heal. In fact, they started getting worse. Then they began to ooze and fester. Soon the 10-year-old was covered in open sores.

“It was oozing, and when it oozes, it spreads,” Sanderson said. “He said they hurt to touch.”

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These were no simple burns, Sanderson realized. It was time for a visit to the doctor.

Her son’s doctor took one look at the boy’s wounds and came up with a theory. She asked where the boy thought the marks came from. When she heard about the bounce house, there was no doubt left in her mind.

Sanderson’s little boy had a staph infection.

Staph infections are a potentially serious invasion of Staphylococcus bacteria. If the infection spreads far enough, the malady can be life-threatening. It’s vital that people with staph infections get treatment as quickly as possible.

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The bacteria were hiding on the plastic surface of the bounce house’s interior. The boy must have had cuts or abrasions on his arm, and that’s how the bacteria entered his system.

“Any time you break the skin, you’re at risk of getting some sort of skin infection,” Ari Cohen, Chief of Pediatric Emergency Medicine at Mass General Hospital told Fox 25. “Staph being probably the most common and the most talked about. As long as you wash up any wound after you get it, that should minimize the chance of getting significant infections.”

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Sanderson’s boy was treated for his infection and came out okay in the end. Still, it was a terrible ordeal, and Sanderson doesn’t plan on letting her kids back into a bounce house in the foreseeable future.

In addition to the risk of bacterial infections, playing in bounce houses leads to bruises, concussions, and broken bones with startling regularity.

A 2012 study in the health journal Pediatrics found that bounce houses caused 11,300 injuries to children in 2010. That’s twice the number of bounce house–related injuries recorded in 2008.

The study, which was conducted by researchers at the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, observed that this injury rate “equals a child every 46 minutes nationally. This epidemic increase highlights the urgency of addressing the prevention of inflatable bouncer-related injuries among children.”

So the next time you bring your kids to a rollicking birthday party complete with a bounce house, you might want to tell them to steer clear. No amount of fun is worth a staph infection or a broken bone.

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