Medical Moment: Inhaling Helium, Not Harmless

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Nationally certified physicians assistant Laura Cattell answers this weeks question: Is it harmless to inhale helium?

Laura Cattell, PA-C

Laura Cattell, PA-C


Most people think inhaling helium is harmless fun; inhale helium from a balloon and talk like Donald Duck!

Here’s the truth: Huffing helium is not safe, and adults must stop encouraging children to do it, according to the National Inhalant Prevention Coalition, a group that promotes awareness and recognition of inhalant use.

Inhaling helium can actually result in death.

Instead of harmless fun, intentionally inhaling helium is like “huffing” or “bagging” other household substances. A person can cut off oxygen supply leading to asphyxiation, inhale too deeply and cause an embolism or the pressurized gas from tanks can potentially cause lungs to rupture.

Though more serious consequences are typically associated with inhaling helium directly from filling tanks, (rather than balloons) helium tanks are readily available in stores and frequently purchased for parties.

By demonstrating and normalizing inhaling helium, adults are potentially and unknowingly encouraging huffing. Educating children on the dangers of inhalants and adults on the consequences of abuse of household products in their home is an obligation we all have.

Remember, just because it is legal, does not mean it is safe.

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