They may be the quintessential playthings of childhood, but latex balloons are a hazard—and a lethal one at that. “Kids are choking on them and dying,” says Josh Krimston, a firefighter/paramedic at Bonita Fire Department in San Diego and co-founder of EPIC Medics, a nonprofit organization that aims to prevent childhood injuries. “Latex is so smooth that if it’s inhaled or swallowed, it molds to the trachea and blocks the airway, causing the child to suffocate.”
Whole, uninflated balloons are not the only danger; pieces of popped balloons can also be deadly, especially for crawling babies who put everything in their mouths. What’s more, it’s almost impossible to remove them unless special equipment is used. “Even the Heimlich maneuver may not work,” Krimston adds.
Citing balloons as the leading cause of suffocation death among all children’s products, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends that no child younger than 8 years old be allowed to play with them unsupervised.
Click here for more information on what you should do if your child is choking.