Does drawing in helium hurt your lungs?

Helium balloons: Inhaling the gas is life-threatening

09.06.2010

Generating Mickey Mouse voices with helium gas from balloons can be harmful to health and even life-threatening. Because if the colorless and odorless gas is inhaled too long or too often in a row, it can lead to unconsciousness without warning. The gas displaces oxygen from the lungs unnoticed. Helium from gas cylinders is particularly dangerous because the gas escapes there at high pressure ...

The professional association of paediatricians warns parents not to let children experiment with helium gas for balloons in order to generate Mickey Mouse voices. The colorless and odorless gas is harmful to life if it is inhaled too long or too often in a row. “The insidious thing about it is that unconsciousness can occur without warning, as the gas displaces oxygen from the lungs unnoticed by those affected. Especially when helium is inhaled from gas cylinders, a life-threatening situation can quickly arise, as the gas escapes there at high pressure, ”explains Dr. Ulrich Fegeler, pediatrician and federal press spokesman for the professional association of paediatricians (BVKJ). Children are thrilled when helium makes a very high-pitched voice when they speak, but parents should not allow them to use it unsupervised.

Helium can, among other things, trigger a brain embolism with stroke-like symptoms, as gas bubbles form in the blood. The brain region supplied by the affected blood vessels is cut off from the supply of nutrients and dies. In addition to permanent lung damage, inhaling helium can therefore also lead to failure of certain areas of the brain. "Children should therefore never play with helium balloons alone, and appropriate fuel bottles should be kept out of their reach," advises Dr. Fegeler.