We probably often have seen some guys inhale gas from a helium balloon to sound like a funny voice as we see in a cartoon. Well, harmless it may seem but it could be so much dangerous for health and even deadly sometimes. Yeah, helium has voice-altering qualities but too much of it is not that funny at all. It typically can cause a bit of dizziness when we inhale. Helium is colorless, odorless, non-toxic, tasteless or liquid at certain temperatures. It is a light, inert gas used for many things such as MRI machines, cryogenic research etc.

What happens usually when we inhale helium?


Helium gas that we inhale from balloons is sometimes also known as ‘balloon gas’. Doesn’t matter where we inhale it from. The thing that happens when we inhale helium is that it displaces the oxygen in our body. Even when we inhale helium our bodies just get helium only without any oxygen. We know well how important the oxygen is for our existence. It plays a vital and one of the most important roles for our body functions. So, we don’t get enough of it means we are putting ourselves at a risk.

Why does helium make us sound funny?


We rely on our vocal cords to make sounds while speaking. Normally, when the air passes through our larynx then it causes the vocal cords to vibrate. At the moment, we use our mouths, lips, tongues to convert the sound into speeches. We know helium is much less than the air. That’s why it travels faster through our timbres and makes the sounds squeaky.

Inhaling Helium from Balloon & Pressurized Tank

When we inhale helium from a balloon, it usually changes our voices as squeaky. It can lead to hypoxia and low oxygen. Normally, a bit of helium is harmless. But, when we inhale too much of it from the balloon it can cause breathing problems, dizziness, and passing out as well as other side effects. On the other hand, inhaling helium from a pressurized gas tank is extremely dangerous. The reason is the pressure of the gas in a tank is much greater than the pressure of a balloon. It could easily rush into your lungs and rupture the blood vessel as well as blocking it or making hemorrhage condition. Also helium can cause death by asphyxiation in just a few minutes.

When to see a doctor?

We don’t have to be worried about it if it doesn’t make any significant changes in our health except changing the voice a bit faster. It is always better not to inhale it. You need to see a doctor if these given symptoms are shown when you have inhaled it :

  • Low blood pressure
  • Nausea
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Trouble breathing
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Chest pain
  • Coughing up blood
  • Seizures
  • Paralysis
  • Blurred vision

Sources :

  • Indian Express, URL : https://indianexpress.com/article/lifestyle/health/can-inhaling-helium-gas-harm-you-find-out-6253818/
  • Healthline, URL : https://www.healthline.com/health/inhaling-helium#what-happens