Hands up if as a kid you inhaled helium from a balloon and laughed hysterically at the sound of a chipmunk emerging from your body. Harmless as it may seem, inhaling helium gas can actually be incredibly dangerous – even deadly.
The parents of an 8yo boy who tragically died after inhaling helium gas from his birthday balloon are warning parents of the dangers of helium products. It might seem like an innocent gag in the hope to prevent a similar tragedy from happening to others. Once you know the risks, inhaling helium is a cheap-laugh party trick you’ll most definitely want to put a stop to.
An inquest into the death of eight-year-old Luke Harper this week saw his parents having to relive the horror details of his death just over a year ago. Through their heartbreak, they wish to warn others of the unthinkable balloon tragedy.
Luke died a week after his 8th birthday
It was reported that Luke, who had autism and had been diagnosed with ADHD, suffered fatal brain injuries after being overcome by helium gas after he placed a figure 8 shaped balloon over his head – a balloon that had been bought for his birthday party a week earlier.
Luke’s mum, Hilary McSweeney, told an inquest at Dublin District Coroner’s Court this week that Luke had been playing upstairs in the afternoon of the day before he died.
Hilary said her son’s body was limp as she pulled the balloon off his face and rushed him outside to the back garden to get some fresh air. She described discovering him lying face down on the ground upstairs in an unresponsive state with the balloon completely over his head.
She also said that the party balloon had been floating partially deflated in the sitting room for the previous week following his birthday party.
Luke’s father, Martin Harper, gave their son CPR while they waited desperately for emergency services to arrive. Tragically, his parents were told by Luke’s doctors the following day that they would have to say goodbye to their precious son.
“I felt numb, heartbroken and in a pain you can’t imagine”
An unimaginable accident
Hilary told the Coroner that her son had always had balloons for his parties but there had never been a similar incident. Martin also mentioned that Luke would have been completely unaware that helium was sometimes inhaled by older children because of the way it changes their voices.
Luke’s family believes that Luke was trying to reinflate the balloon when he blacked out. A post-mortem revealed Luke died as a result of a lack of oxygen to the brain due to cardiac arrest, which had been caused by the inhalation of the helium gas from the partially deflated balloon.
Based on the evidence, Luke’s death was ruled an accidental death by doctors and following the hearing, his family said they’re anxious for other families to be aware of the potential danger of helium balloons and to dispose of them correctly.
The takeaway here is, by ALL MEANS, celebrate your parties and birthdays with gorgeous, fun helium inflated floating balloons. After all – kids LOVE them. But dispose of balloons properly after the event, releasing all of the gas before binning and don’t ever leave your children unattended with them, especially if they could be tempted to try and blow them back up or inhale the gas.
The dangers of inhaling helium gas: What you need to know
Helium displaces oxygen in your body when you inhale it. This means your body is ONLY getting helium gas. Anytime your body doesn’t get enough oxygen, you’re putting yourself at risk. The more helium you inhale, the longer your body is without crucial oxygen which can cause asphyxiation in just minutes.
Side effects of inhaling helium can include:
- Passing out
All in all, inhaling helium gas from party balloons (or a tank) for a cheap, voice-altering party trick and a few laughs just really isn’t worth the health risk – especially for children.