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Posted: Wednesday, February 9th 2011 at 9:00am

Balloons Are the Leading Cause of Suffocation Death for Children

By Debbie Wilburn Access Insider
EMAIL STORY CONTACT EDITOR PRINT
There are few experiences more frightening than seeing your child choking and gasping for air. If you have children you know they are fascinated by all sorts of objects and everything goes straight to their mouth. Choking occurs when suddenly, an object is swallowed, goes down the wrong way, and lodges in the windpipe. The transport of oxygen to the brain is blocked and being without oxygen for as little as four minutes brain damage and death can occur.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) warns parents and guardians of young children about the suffocation hazard presented by uninflated toy balloons and pieces of broken balloons.

Of all childrenís products, balloons are the leading cause of suffocation death, according to CPSC injury data. Since 1973, more than 110 children have died as a result of suffocation involving uninflated balloons or pieces of balloons.

Most of the victims were under six years of age, but the CPSC does know of several older children who have suffocated on balloons. Accidents involving balloons tend to occur in two
ways. Some children have sucked uninflated balloons into their mouths, often while attempting to inflate them. This can occur when a child who is blowing up the balloon inhales or takes a breath to prepare for the next blow, and draws the balloon back into the mouth and throat. Some deaths may have resulted when children swallowed uninflated balloons they were sucking or chewing on.

The CPSC knows of one case in which a child was chewing on an uninflated balloon when she fell from a swing. The child hit the ground and, in a reflex action, inhaled sharply. She
suffocated on the balloon.
The second kind of accident involves balloon pieces. Children have drawn pieces of broken balloons that they were playing with into their throats. If a balloon breaks and is not discarded, for example, some children may continue to play with it, chewing on pieces of the balloon or attempting to stretch it across their mouths and suck or blow bubbles in it. These balloon
pieces are easily sucked into the throat and lungs. Balloons mold to the throat and lungs and can completely block breathing.

Because of the danger of suffocation, the CPSC recommends that parents and guardians do not allow children under the age of eight to play with uninflated balloons without supervision. The CPSC does not believe that a completely inflated balloon presents a hazard to young children. If the balloon breaks, however, CPSC recommends that parents immediately collect the pieces of the broken balloon and dispose of them out of the reach of young children.

Parents, grandparents and child care providers: warn your children to never chew or suck on pieces of rubber balloons. Most incidents occur when a child suddenly inhales a deflated balloon he has been chewing on. Even teenagers have died from inhaling a deflated balloon. Chewing on an inflated balloon is also dangerous because the balloon could burst. Mylar helium balloons are safer than rubber balloons, but rubber balloons are fine when they are used with supervision.

To report a dangerous product or a product-related injury, call CPSC's hotline at (800) 638-2772 or CPSC's teletypewriter at (301) 595-7054, or visit CPSC's web site below.

Link: CPSC website
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