What Happens When You Inhale Helium from a Balloon


Birthday parties aren’t as much fun unless something peculiar happens. And the high-pitched voice acquired from the helium balloon is the ultimate weapon to have all the kids in splits and giggles.

Either way, kids love playing with balloons of all sorts, whether it is a water balloon cannon, a normal balloon, or a helium balloon.

But when it comes to the last one, is it really safe to inhale helium? Also, what exactly happens when you inhale some of it? You might be surprised to find that the helium you may inhale from a balloon for the high-pitched voice could potentially make you sick! Not only sick, prolonged exposure could even mean a fatal accident.

Curious to know more? Continue reading to find out!

What Happens When You Inhale Helium from a Balloon?

A person inhaling helium from a balloon

Once helium enters your system, it starts replacing oxygen, thereby causing a lack of it. When you actively inhale helium, it means that your body only receives helium and no oxygen at all. As the amount of helium increases in our lungs, oxygen concentration steadily decreases in our bodies. And as we know quite well, oxygen is crucial to our survival.

Even a few seconds of lack of oxygen can cause severe harm to your tissues, brain, and, ultimately, the overall functioning of the body. However, these consequences are when you inhale helium in a large quantity. What if you inhale a small amount from a balloon?

Inhaling a small amount of helium from a balloon will certainly give you the high-pitched voice-altering effect at first. But you’re liable to feel a bit of dizziness.

In addition to that, you could also feel nausea, lightheadedness, or eventually passing out. Since the amount of helium is very low in a balloon, inhaling a few breaths won’t cause any major health risks.

But ultimately, it depends upon the tolerance level of each human. It is worth noting that kids typically have a much lesser tolerance and can feel the side effects of inhaling helium much faster and worse.

What Happens When You Inhale Helium from Other Sources?

A person inhaling helium from other sources.

Other sources of helium pose a greater risk than helium balloons. For instance, consider helium tanks. A gas tank of helium has a very high relative pressure than that of the air. When you inhale helium directly from a tank, it gushes into your lungs and can cause them to burst, puncture, or hemorrhage. This could mean several weeks in the hospital or a direct visit to the morgue.

Even if you don’t face the threat of lung puncture, the helium released from pressurized tanks is in great quantities. The more helium you inhale per second, the greater the threat to your health.

Technically, helium, being a noble gas, doesn’t pose the risk of interacting with your bodily components. However, it can cause problems due to the pressure difference and oxygen deprivation.

What to Do if You Inhale Some Helium?

A small girl blowing air into a balloon

If you inhale some helium from a balloon at a party, it may not cause much damage. You may feel a little dizzy or have a mild headache, in which case, you should take a seat and relax.

However, there are a few signs that may denote the serious effects of helium. Consider the following list to learn about these signs and symptoms.

  • Low Blood Pressure
  • Trouble Breathing
  • Irregular Heart Rate
  • Blurred Vision
  • Chest Pain
  • Weakness Or Paralysis In One Or More Limbs
  • Bluish Lips Or Skin (Cyanosis)
  • Coughing Up Blood
  • Seizures
  • Loss Of Consciousness

All of these signs and symptoms denote damage to the lungs or lack of oxygen in the body. If someone around you inhales helium and starts to feel any of these symptoms, you must observe them to figure out whether these are prolonged signs or they gradually feel better. If their symptoms aren’t reducing, call 911 or local emergency services to get them to a hospital.

What To Do If I Want The Squeaky Voice?

A woman with sunglasses and a headband holds a balloon

Inhaling a little bit of helium from the balloon doesn’t pose much risk despite direct inhalation since it is in small quantities. Despite that, you should take a few precautions before inhaling helium from a balloon.

  • Refrain from inhaling directly from a pressurized tank.
  • Avoid helium if you have a lung or heart condition.
  • Play any helium-related games while sitting down to avoid feeling dizzy or light-headed.
  • Don’t let children play with helium balloons, as they are prone to a higher risk of symptoms.
  • Ensure that you don’t inhale helium when alone. Anyone else can monitor the effect of helium on your body and help you if needed.

As long as you follow these instructions, you’re good to go.


From the above discussion, we can infer that the quantity of helium inhaled matters a lot when considering its effects. Inhaling helium replaces the oxygen in your body, thereby creating a lack of it. If you inhale helium from a balloon in very small quantities, all you’ll get is a squeaky voice, and you may feel a little dizzy.

However, if you inhale helium from a pressure tank, you may experience certain serious effects, like low blood pressure, trouble breathing, irregular heart rate, blurred vision, and chest pain.

Also, the high-pressure gas from the tank can lead to lung damage and even fatal accidents. Thus, you should take certain precautions while inhaling helium from balloons and make sure you’re supervised.

Have you ever experienced any signs other than getting a high-pitched voice? Let us know in the comments section below!

Sandy Jensen
Sandy Jensen, a celebrated writer in the home and garden niche, boasts over 12 years of hands-on experience. Her educational background includes a Bachelor’s in Landscape Architecture from Cornell University. Before joining our team in 2016, she worked as a landscape designer, combining her love for nature and design. Sandy's expertise shines through her articles, offering readers practical and aesthetically pleasing gardening tips. Off the clock, she enjoys hiking and nature photography, further nurturing her connection with the outdoors.

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