If you've ever seen a baby giggle with delight at the sight of a brightly colored balloon, you might be tempted to give your little one a balloon just to hear his coos of joy. While there's nothing wrong with pointing out a balloon to your baby, stop short of actually giving him one to hold. Balloons look innocent, but they are responsible for at least 110 child deaths since 1973, and almost all of these were under the age of 6, according to the St. Louis Children's Hospital.
One of the primary risks of giving a balloon to a baby is the choking hazard it poses. Babies tend to put everything into their mouths, and gumming or gnawing on an inflated balloon can cause it to pop. If a balloon pops in your baby's mouth, it becomes small enough to pose a choking risk. Letting your baby play with a balloon that hasn't been blown up yet poses the same choking hazard. In fact, according to the University of Michigan Health System, balloons are responsible for more child deaths than any other type of toy. That's because a deflated balloon or pieces of a popped balloon can take on the shape of your baby's windpipe, which leads to choking.
According to the KidsHealth, babies can become entrapped in ways parents might not even think about. Balloon strings is a good example. If the balloon your baby is playing with has a string attached to it, the balloon becomes a strangulation and entrapment hazard. It doesn't take a long piece of string or ribbon to strangle or entrap your baby either, since his neck is so tiny. The string also might get wrapped around your baby's fingers, hand or arm, cutting off the circulation.
Though not as common as choking or entrapment, the noise a popping balloon makes can damage your baby's ears. According to KidsHealth, a loud noise can damage the tiny hairs inside a baby's ears. If your baby is playing with an inflated balloon and gets too rough, the loud pop sound can harm her ears. Even though the ear damage almost is always temporary, the popping sound also might scare your little one.
Tips and Considerations
Choose Mylar balloons instead of latex balloons, because they are less likely to pop. Do remove any strings or ribbon from the Mylar balloon if your baby is able to reach it. If you do use latex balloons, be diligent about picking up the pieces when one pops and don't allow your baby to come into contact with inflated balloons either. Because many people think balloons are innocent fun, remind family members and friends that balloons are dangerous, and kindly request that they don't try to give one to your child.