The Dangers of Balloons

The Dangers of Balloons

Believe it or not, balloons cause more childhood deaths than any other toy.

That’s right. Balloons!

This shocking fact was established by a study conducted by Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh in conjunction with DuPont Institute, and Inchcape Testing Services Risk Analysis and Management. They looked at the shape, consistency, and size of objects that caused choking deaths in 449 children. Findings from this study include: objects that pass the Small Parts Test Fixture (the cylinder with a diameter of 3.17 cm that is used to gauge the safety of small toys) can cause choking. The biggest culprits in this category are spherical objects such as balls and marbles or objects that have spherical parts such as dolls with spherical heads. Far more dangerous, however, are objects that have the ability to conform to the shape of a child’s airway, such as balloons and disposable diaper stuffing. Of additional concern is the fact that the number of deaths caused by children inhaling a portion of a balloon are still very high in the 3 – 6 year-old range, which we consider out of danger from choking.

Here are the take home lessons —

  • Don’t assume a toy is safe for a child to play with just because it passes the SPTF test.
  • Don’t assume a child is in the safe range just because he or she is over three years old.
  • If a whole object or a round portion of an object will fit into your child’s mouth, watch him very closely whenever he plays with it.
  • Never let a child play with a balloon when you are out of the room.
  • Mylar and paper balloons are far safer than latex balloons.
  • Stay current on Infant and Child First Aid and CPR — the life you save may be very dear to you!!!

Dr. Alan Greene

Dr. Greene is the founder of DrGreene.com (cited by the AMA as “the pioneer physician Web site”), a practicing pediatrician, father of four, & author of Raising Baby Green & Feeding Baby Green. He appears frequently in the media including such venues as the The New York Times, the TODAY Show, Good Morning America, & the Dr. Oz Show.

  1. Hilary

    My Son almost got strangled with the string of a balloon. I was well aware of the dangers of balloons at the time. We came home from a birthday party. My daughter begged me for the balloon. I decided I would let her play with it supervised and then throw it out. With 2 small children, I somehow got distracted and was in the kitchen, just around the corner, about 10 feet away. Next minute I heard a coughing, choking sound. The string of the balloon had gotten wrapped 3 times around the neck of my 1 1/2 year old son. My 3 year old daughter was pulling him like a dog, unaware of the dangers. Thank God, I was able to rescue him quickly and he was fine. I am so grateful and thank God daily. I hope this never happens to anyone else. I want to help bring more awareness to the dangers of balloons by telling my story. Please share my story, Please, Please do. You might be indirectly or directly saving a childs life. Thanks, Hilary

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  2. In 1993 my 7- month old grand-daughter was killed after a Mylar balloon fell on her during a nap at a relatives home. The balloon was deflated and hung on a teenagers wall as a momento. Please consider all aspects of safety before making statements. While this was a terrible accident that may occur in a very small percentage of the population, it was 100% for our family. Patricia Marks

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    • Maria Prendergast

      Sorry about your loss. I also want to thank you for your comment I didn’t know about the danger of Mylar balloons.

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