February 3, 2000
By Todd Smith
A Dangerous Party Guest - Balloons Can Cause
Severe Injury, Illness or Even Death
Miami, FL (SafetyAlerts) - Colorful balloons
create a festive atmosphere for almost any celebration, but did you know they also cause
severe injury, illness or even death to both children and adults?
According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety
Commission (CPSC), of all children's products, balloons are the leading cause of
Since 1973, more than 110 children have died as a
result of suffocation involving uninflated balloons or pieces of balloons. Most of the
victims were under six years of age, but the CPSC does know of several older children who
have suffocated on balloons.
Suffocation hazards involving balloons tend to
occur in two ways: Some children have sucked uninflated balloons into their mouths, often
while attempting to inflate them, while others have drawn pieces of broken balloons that
they were playing with into their throats causing a restriction of the airway.
If a balloon breaks and is not discarded some
children may continue to play with it, chewing on pieces of the balloon or attempting to
stretch it across their mouths and suck or blow bubbles in it. These balloon pieces are
easily sucked into the throat and lungs. Balloons mold to the throat and lungs and can
completely block breathing.
Because of this hazard, one children's hospital in
Iowa no longer allows balloons to be given as gifts or for use as decorations at hospital
Beyond the potential for suffocation, balloons may
also cause severe injuries to the eyes and face when they pop.
SafetyAlerts recently recieved a note from a
subscriber who stated "A friend's little boy was playing with a balloon and bit it.
It broke in his face and snapped him in the eye... He was in the hospital for several
weeks and had a very real possibility of loosing site in his eye."
Injuries like these may not be uncommon.
There are a variety of eye injuries that have been associated with balloons.
If a balloon pops right in front of the eye, it
can cause a corneal abrasion (scratch on the cornea of the eye), which needs treatment
since it can lead to infection and scarring. Other eye injuries may include a
hyphema (bleeding into the eye in a place called the anterior chamber), which can cause
problems such as glaucoma. Popping balloons can also cause a contusion to the eye or
Balloons are frequently thought of as children's
toys or decorations, but because of the potential for problems in vision, infection and so
on, even minor injuries may very well require medical attention.
Balloons can also be an excellent avenue to pass
on germs and disease. Never put a balloon in or on your mouth after another person
has done so. There is nothing like fresh saliva to transmit germs. You risk not only
usual flu and cold bugs, but, also more sever illnesses such as Hepatitis A or Herpes
Other tips that may help prevent injury from
- While inflating, always hold the balloon with the
palm outwards, back of the hand above the mouth and shielding the eyes.
- Hang balloons high enough so children cannot reach
- Keep a close eye on children who may be holding
balloons and make sure they know not to place the balloon in their mouths or near the
- If a balloon breaks, immediately collect the pieces
and discard them. Never let children play with an uninflated or broken balloon.
Balloons can still be a part of your celebrations,
but caution, awareness and vigilance are needed to help keep everyone safe and healthy.