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!!!
Last medical review on: June 30, 2008
About the Author
Photo of Alan Greene MD
Dr. Greene is a practicing physician, author, national and international TEDx speaker, and global health advocate. He is a graduate of Princeton University and University of California San Francisco.
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Recent Comments

In 2012 my 14yr old daughter Ashley Long died from inhaling helium. Since I’ve been raising awareness about the dangers. Please check out my books online
The Air Inside also available in Coloring book form and
My Daughter Died Laughing
These are available in E-book form as well…
Sincerely, Lori Earp

Dear Lori,

We’re so sorry for your loss. We appreciate your efforts to educate people about the dangers of inhaling helium.


I work with kids in church groups and occassionly other activities. I follow a few simple rules. No balloons under the age of 4(age 8 is completely ridiculas). I don’t allow children to blow up balloons , youth or adult task only, naturally I also do not permit blow them up till they pop games with any age group. If balloons pop, either accidently or as part of a game, (yes, sitting on the balloons has to be just about the funnest party game in the world, and when played with proper supervision is completely harmless) pieces are immediately picked up and thrown away, preferably in another room away from childrens reach. I make sure balloons are taken home only with parents permission . Also as well as not letting children blow them up, I also put a stop to balloons coming into close contact with the face, to prevent possible eye injury. 20+ years, I have had no problems

While I do not make light of the injuries or deaths that have been suffered, I also challenge anybody to find anything that has not caused injury or death due to misuse, defect, inattention or just plain freak accidents

The strings onmylar balloons seem like a very risky thing for strangulation as the child twirls with balloon

Excellent point. Well delivered.

Thank you.

Dr. Greene,

How can I find up to date statistics about injuries and fatalities incurred by children from latex balloons.

The reason I ask is that for many years I have been working on latex balloons safety . I believe it is possible to make latex balloons safe for children of all ages , I actually have developed such means and in the process of applying for IP protection . Can you direct me to up to date statistics that identify number and type of injuries caused by latex balloons ?

Kind regards,
John L. Basevi

I can tell you there is an average of 5 deaths per year do to balloons. 5. It is more dangerous to let your kid ride a bike, swing, swim, ride in you car, or even go the bathroom.

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

Doesn’t sound like the balloon was the problem.

Thank goodness you were able to save your son! That must have been so scary! We cringe whenever we see children with balloons, even supervised. We would like to share your story as we continue to educate others of the dangers of balloons. You can find us on Facebook or our website

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

So very sorry. Such a tragic loss. Certainly proves balloons are a danger no matter what kind or what condition. It is troubling that some will claim their is a ‘safer’ balloon. All balloons are hazardous- to children, adults, & animals.

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