Balloon fatalities

we have all heard the whole helium can kill you if inhaled pprospect right? is this the truth? can i die from taking a hit off of a balloon? the effect is amazing and fun but fatal?:smack:

Yes, you can die from inhaling helium.

Not because helium is poisonous, but because your body needs oxygen and carbon dioxide to live. Lack of oxygen leads to anoxia, which causes unconciousness, followed by brain damage, followed by death.

Does this mean sucking in helium from a party balloon and talking in a squeaky is going to kill you? No. Probably the worst that will happen is you’ll pass out and wake up with a headache. Not recommended, but not deadly.

The one fatal case of helium inhalation I’ve heard about were a bunch of kids who ducked under a cover and filled it with helium gas. When they passed out, they fell to the ground and were still in the enclosed helium atmosphere. Their bodies could get any oxygen, so they died of anoxia.

Stupid way to go. Don’t do it.

Does helium stay in your body like carbon monoxide, or is it readily expelled?

I took a shower once with a big chunk of dry ice. The bathroom got all foggy and then I started feeling light headed from all the CO2 so I had to ventilate :slight_smile: The same thing happens with helium - as long as you don’t pass out while stuck in the helium you should be fine.

Where did you hear this? Helium is inert and is used by deep sea divers because both Oxygen and Nitrogenbecome problematic at high pressures.

If you are a plant maybe.

Carbon Monoxide does not stay in the body. It replaces oxygen in the reaction with hemoglobin and creates carboxyhemoglobin. That molecule is more stable and persists in the body, but CO does not.

Helium, as an inert Noble gas, does not react with other molecules and as such would not persist in the body. This is essentially moot since Helium, unlike CO, does not enter the blood stream when it’s inhaled. It simply displaces Oxygen in the lungs, where CO interrupts the actual biology of respiration.

You need carbon dioxide because the presence of carbon dioxide in the blood is what signals the need to breath (NOT a lack of oxygen.) If you have been breathing some other gas such as helium then not only do you not have oxygen but you also don’t have a high concentration of CO2 and so you don’t feel like you’re in any trouble. If you’re in a situation where oxygen is not readily available, such as those kids in the helium sphere experienced, then you die because you don’t have oxygen and your body doesn’t know it needs it so you don’t remove yourself from the dangerous situation.

The CO2 that triggers the need to breath is not from the atmosphere, it’s a waste product of your cells.