We all have done that funny party trick where we inhale some air from the balloon and voila we have a new voice. And this new voice is all shrill and high-pitched which is quite funny to listen to.
The gas that we inhale to modulate our voice is known as helium. Fun and games aside, it can be really dangerous to inhale helium and can cause a negative effect on our brain cells, and let’s see how.
1. What does Helium do to Your Voice?
Firstly let us understand why our voice changes when we inhale helium. So, the clear mechanism is that it basically gets attached to the vocal cords and this makes them vibrate, but at a higher frequency than normal which causes the shrill.
The dangerous part in this is that when you inhale oxygen you leave your body filled with helium and depleted of oxygen, which creates a problem.
Oxygen is required by the body for nearly all important functions and the absence of it for even a short duration can create big problems.
When your body is getting only helium you are putting it under unnecessary pressure and risk of breathlessness, nausea, or even death.
2. What Happens when you Inhale Helium?: Does Helium Kill Brain Cells?
One of the most obvious reactions is that your voice gets altered. Usually, the effects of inhaling helium from a balloon are temporary, meaning they will go away in 10-15 minutes, and you will start breathing normally again.
But this is not the only result, you can also feel dizziness, nausea, and lightheadedness. Sometimes in a few cases, a person might as well pass out.
So, we can not really say that this fun activity is advised even for parties because it can lead to asphyxiation and other health issues.
According to the studies conducted in 2020 by the National Library of Science, there have been around 2000 injuries in the United States due to helium inhalation. And the majority of the patients are kids aged between 6-12 years.
3. What about Helium from Other Sources?
So inhalation from a balloon is one thing but if you inhale from any other source it could actually be more dangerous.
So, considering tanks if you inhale helium from one of those it will have a very high pressure and the force with which it is released out of the tank is very strong. So, the quantity that you will inhale in a very short duration will be way too much.
And if you breathe into pure helium for even a small duration it might lead to a serious asphyxiation leading to death in a couple of minutes.
It can even form a bubble and get into a blood vessel, thus blocking the blood flow. If it is bad enough then it can lead to a rupture of your lungs as well and also cause a serious hemorrhage.
4. Can you Get High?
It’s not like it is an addictive drug, but people can actually get high and this is because the vapor of helium gets quickly absorbed in the lungs. So, like when you consume alcohol and get a high or excitement feeling it can be achieved with helium as well.
It can even become addictive due to the fact that you have to consume it again and again after a short duration because the high lasts for only a few minutes and this consumption can sometimes become an addiction and can even lead to injury or death.
5. Side Effects of Inhaling Helium: Does Helium Kill Brain Cells?
Although we now know that it is not toxic, even then if you inhale it for long durations and at high pressure, it can become very dangerous. Due to inhalation, there is a change in air density which makes the process of breathing difficult and can even cause damage to your lungs.
Most of the time the symptoms go away in a few minutes but if you experience any of the following symptoms you should consider visiting a doctor; low blood pressure, chest pain, blurred vision, seizures, trouble breathing, or irregular heart rate.
Some people think that due to the voice alteration effect that is achieved by inhaling helium your voice gets permanently changed so maybe it does not come back to the same pitch.
However, in most cases that is not what happens but still, you should keep the risks in mind anytime you are planning to inhale helium even for fun. Always make sure that anyone with a heart condition must strictly avoid inhaling helium.
Now assuming that you have just inhaled helium and you are considering if you’re in danger. Not really; because it’s not like you do it one time and it will turn out to be fatal. Obviously, that also does not imply that you take it indirectly from a tank just to prove a point.
It is highly likely that you might feel dizzy and a little lost of consciousness but that can be managed if you sit down and breathe out all the unnecessary gases from your system.
6. Does Helium Kill Brain Cells?
The only way that helium can intensively affect your brain is due to the role reversal it plays with oxygen. As helium replaces oxygen in the body it can lead to brain damage due to the absence of oxygen in the blood.
Oxygen is literally the fuel of the body and is necessary for proper functioning. In lack of oxygen, the brain stops functioning which can even lead to organ failure in extreme cases.
7. Final Thoughts
It is all fun and games at a party but we can now safely say that it is not really a great idea to inhale helium. It can obviously lead to suffocation among other issues and should not be tried especially in front of children so that they are not encouraged to try such activities.