Friday, 11 October 2013

I felt a little heliumnated

This last Thursday my in-laws called and I wanted to play a funny voice on the phone. So I got a little heart-shaped helium balloon from my kid's room and as my wife was on the phone talking to her mum, I inhaled three big chunks of air from it. The first time it felt totally OK and I felt fine, the second time it was still quite funny but I started feeling dizzy, by the third time I inhaled pretty much half of the air-volume of the helium balloon and even though my voice was tremendously funny, my wife looked terrorized. I could only hear her say to her mum:

- Oh my God, his lips are grey, his face is pale and he isn't feeling very well.

I actually had to sit down on my sofa and catch my breath again whilst my tremendously dizzy head was getting to grips with my surroundings and the dormant going-to-faint sensation I had in my head. This lasted for about a minute, but since then I have been feeling slightly dizzy... at points, not constantly.

So I rushed to my Toxicology book to read more about it as I always thought that inhaling helium from a balloon (not from a gas tank that is going to blow your lungs for sure) was not only dead-funny, but completely safe. Here's what I found for you mums and dads and kids and clowns like I was yesterday:

- Helium is colorless, odorless, tasteless, non-toxic and inert [1].
- Inhaling helium temporarily will not directly harm a person, but indirectly will deprive one of oxygen without one even noticing it [1].
- Inhaling pressurized helium, or any gas from a tank is terribly dangerous as your lungs can be forced to its maximum elasticity and rupture the pleura membrane in the lungs; also a possible embolism (gas bubbles in your blood that are extremely harmful to the brain). 
- The brain can only manage deprivation of oxygen up to approximately 6 seconds before it shuts unconscious forcing physical collapse. Collapse, as it is explained in [2] is the way the body flattens the human system to the horizontal position in order to increase the blood flow to the brain and restore normal oxygen levels faster. 
- The residual air in your lungs will be affected and it will take a while until its content is back on track with the correct percentage of O2 that you need to be FUNCTIONING NORMALLY .

If you want to have fun have it the right way:

1) Allow your kids to play with helium balloons, but do not make it a constant activity.
2) When inhaling the helium and after getting that high pitch, rest your lungs in between breaths with some fresh oxygen, don't just inhale helium ceasing the feeding of oxygen to your brain. IT IS DANGEROUS.
3) Never leave your kids unassisted when playing with helium from a balloon.
4) Never, but never, breath helium or any gas from a tank. You might blow your lungs and no more play for you.

I did not respect some of these rules and ended up feeling quite heliumnated myself. Yeah, my head is not light as helium now, it is heavy all right.

[1], Element of the week - Helium, [], last visited on the 11th of October 2013, last update unknown.

[2] netdoctor, Is helium dangerous, [], last visited on the 11th of October 2013, last updated on the 05th of October 2011.

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