Is it too early to jump to conclusions?
We’ve all heard tragic stories of kids and pets left unattended in vehicles in hot weather. Some parents and pet owners have simply been distracted for a few moments and suffered the greatest of losses.
One parent, a researcher at the University of Georgia, wondered if bounce houses might pose a similar risk for children. Marshall Shepherd is a professor of geography and atmospheric sciences who saw his own child bouncing in one on a hot day and decided to test his theory. The results of his study, “Do Inflatable Bounce Houses Pose Heat-related Hazards to Children?” was published in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society.
Children are more vulnerable to heat exhaustion and other heat illnesses, according to Shepherd’s co-author Andrew Grundstein, also of UGA. Children need to be monitored closely when participating in sports and other physical activities in hot, humid weather. It’s possible they could become overheated in the greenhouse-like environment of a bounce house.
Indicators of potential heat illness can include dizziness, nausea, fatigue, and skin that is moist and flushed.
How hot is hot?
The study’s experiments were conducted on a bounce house on the UGA campus in typical summer weather conditions for Athens, Georgia. Measurements over a five-hour timespan showed that the the bounce house air temperatures were consistently greater than the ambient temperatures. On a 92°F day, the temperature in the inflatable was nearly four degrees higher. When outdoor temperatures exceeded 100° F, the temperatures in the bounce house were almost seven degrees higher.
The heat index, where relative humidity is factored into the actual air temperature to determine how hot it actually feels, was also taken into consideration in the study. The difference in the heat index inside the inflatable was considerably greater than that of the air temperatures. The bounce house’s average heat index reached nearly 104°F, or more than seven degrees than outside, while difference at the peak temperature of 117°F was more eight degrees.
The risk to sports organizations
Some sports organizations bring in bounce houses as fundraisers. General Liability policies for sports organizations often have an exclusion for inflatables due to the risks of injury involved. Recent media accounts have cited examples of serious injuries occurring when improperly anchored inflatables have been lifted high into the air during wind gusts. Inflatable or bounce house operators should always provide proof of General Liability insurance with an each occurrence limit of at least $1 million and name the sports organization as an additional insured.