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Is Inhaling Helium Harmful For Health?

It is often seen, after inhaling helium from a balloon there is a change in the voice. It might not seem harmful, but inhaling helium can actually be very dangerous.

There are numerous cases of serious injuries and even death caused by helium inhalation.(1)

Is Inhaling Helium Harmful For Health

Is Inhaling Helium Harmful For Health

When someone inhales helium, oxygen is displaced. This way the body is getting only helium and no oxygen which is required by the body.

Oxygen has a major role to play in the functioning of the body. Its deficiency can put the body at risk.

Inhaling Helium From A Balloon

Inhaling a single breath of helium from a balloon can have a voice-altering effect. It might also lead to dizziness, nausea, light-headedness, and risk of passing out.

It would not lead to any major health issue or kill you, but the chances are not completely nil.

There have been reports of children dying from asphyxiation after inhaling helium from a balloon.

Inhaling Helium From A Pressurized Tank

Pressurized tanks containing helium are used to fill the balloons at the party. There is a risk of health issues and death related to helium inhaled from these tanks.

These tanks hold more helium than that filled in the balloon and also it is released with much pressure. This can run into the lungs, causing them to hemorrhage or burst. It can also get trapped in the blood vessel, blocking it.

Also, more pure helium if inhaled, longer the body is deprived of oxygen. It can lead to death from asphyxiation in just a few minutes.

Other Ways Of Inhaling Helium

Do not try to get inside a giant helium balloon as you would deprive yourself of oxygen and prevent breathing normal air after suffering from hypoxia.

For scuba diving and medicine, heliox, a mixture of helium and oxygen is used. This mixture does not cause oxygen deprivation, as it contains oxygen in addition to helium.(2)

What Should Be Done When Someone Inhales Helium?

If helium is inhaled from a balloon and there is a dizzy feeling or a mild headache, there is nothing much to worry about.

For those with severe symptoms such as loss of consciousness, an emergency should be reached.

If someone has huffed helium from a pressurized container, the symptoms can be severe. Watch out for the signs of serious issues which might come in a minute to one hour.

Call an emergency if there is:

It is important to keep away from a giant helium balloon and pressurized tanks. Follow the below steps when near helium balloons:

  • In case, you have inhaled helium, sit down if there is light-headedness to avoid the risk of injury.
  • Make sure to take someone’s help if the symptoms occur
  • Do not let children inhale from a balloon as they are more susceptible to have a bad reaction and prone to choke from parts of the balloon.
  • Even a few seconds without oxygen can be fatal. Doing it just for a laugh is not justifiable.
  • If doing it to entertain, know about the effects first and be careful while dealing with them.
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:February 1, 2021

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