How working with balloons impacts health

This past weekend, while having dinner with friends, the husband of the couple we were with and I were talking about blood pressure and cholesterol, (which those of you under 40 will be doing someday too). One of my sons, 9 years old, was standing nearby, and later asked me if the man was a balloon twister. I said, no, why? He said, ‘Because I heard you talking about 260’s…”

Health Benefits

  • Blowing up balloons has made me healthier! I used to have chronic bronchitis – wake up coughing my head off every morning like I had smoked 3 packs of cigarettes (I have never smoked!!). When I started blowing up balloons that went away. My doctor decided it was because I was blowing up balloons. I have been “ballooning” for 11 years and 10 of those years I blew them up by mouth. Instead of suffering 6 or 7 bouts a year, I sometimes went over a year without any symptoms.
  • Some of my balloon twisting pals have asthma and report the “attacks” are few and further between because they mouth inflate. I am a smoker and I know my “smokers cough” goes away after I use my mouth instead of a pump.
  • There was a story on the local news the other night about a Dr.(Pediatrician) who makes balloon animals for all of his patients. The next day, my distributor got a half dozen phone calls from local hospitals wanting to know where they can send their doctors for classes. I absolutely think that the work we twisters do has a healing effect on the mind, and therefore makes healing the body easier.
  • Before I started blowing up balloons by mouth, I had chronic bronchitis. It seemed I was always on medication and always going to my doctor. Since I started exercising my lungs and blowing up balloons, my bronchitis has almost completely disappeared! My doctor was amazed. He said it had to be the balloons that were helping me and told me to blow up as many balloons as I wanted to.
  • I had a compound fracture of my left radius when I was a teenager. My first experience with twisting was when I found that twisting was good therapy for the arthritis that resulted from the break.
  • One of my patients was recently admitted to the Psych ward. When I went down to visit her she was sitting with several other patients and they were all looking a bit down (OK, so they were all clinically depressed). Well, I was forced to make a few balloons, and, while I was doing it, most of the rest of the patients came and followed by the staff, and I made a BUNCH of balloons. When it was over everyone was laughing and having fun (the preggers poodle was a major hit as was my Friday the 13th variation: Cujo, with a face drawn on the little bubble). The staff told me it was better for the patients than therapy. I may have to submit this to the New England Journal of Medicine: Balloon Therapy: A cure for the Blues. Who says balloons are just for kids?!
  • Beneficial uses of balloons in therapy – related goals could be an increase in lung capacity for those with asthma and related illnesses, fine motor improvement as far as the twisting motion needed to make animals, and possible expression of emotions in role play activities with the balloons once they are made into stuff. Gross motor goals could also be worked on as far as hitting the balloon around the room. As a music therapist I have seen balloons used for a gross motor group experience where the group members sit in a circle and hit the balloon to each other on the beats of the music. This can also work on eye hand coordination and social goals because group members often have to make eye contact with each other.

Health Complications


  • There are a large variety of complications that can occur to the balloonist, including a collapsed lung, hemorrhoids, subconjuctival hemorrhage into the eye (usually not serious), and laryngoceles (outpouching of the larynx similar to what musicians get, like horn players).
  • There are ways to avoid many of these complications, like using a pump instead of mouth-blowing, keeping the balloon away from your face and/ or wearing glasses. Also be careful who gets the balloon, but we can’t predict who will actually end up with the balloon. People need to be educated by the individuals who deal with the product.
  • If you are going to orally inflate balloons, and do it incorrectly, you may cause damage. If you do it right, you might increase your breathing ability. OR, you could stick with a manual pump and hazard Carpal Tunnel Syndrome from the repetitive motion (which we twisters are already susceptible to)… or go to one of the electric pumps and risk ear damage.
  • When people ask me how I ever learned to inflate these things I tell them the truth (it’s funnier), “Well, you know after the first FOUR months, of inflating these things all day for hours on end, the nausea, dizziness and head-aches just sort of subside. NO, really. I’m not kidding.”

Fainting, Seizures, Etc.

  • Getting a person out of the audience and having them try to blow up a 260 is a funny routine… at least it was until about three weeks ago. The healthy 25 year old male I picked did a great job of also turning red in the face before he turned pale, sweaty and started to pass out. I was slightly turned away from him and was talking to the audience when this happened. Luckily, two nurses in the audience assessed the situation and ran forward to slowly lower him to the floor. As I finally turned and realized what had happened, I ran over to find this wonderful man on the floor pale, sweaty and eyes rolling back in his head. He was groggy, but, thank the Lord, he was breathing. With time, and cold water he came around. When a person bears down internally there is a vagal response that your body does, and it can slow your heart rate. This is probably what happened here as he was trying with all his might to blow that balloon up. Believe me, I am very thankful that he is ok and that we carry entertainers insurance. After he was ok we got him a chair, and I then went on with the rest of the routine. However, first I made a joke about nobody ever going to that much trouble to get a front row seat to our show (which got a laugh). Then I went to him as I was leaving to make sure he was okay and to tell him to call me if there were any problems. However, I couldn’t resist saying, “Wow, that went really well, just like we practiced. You even had me fooled for a while” (which got another laugh). I called the next day, and he was fine.
  • Many people get a dizzy or light headed feeling when first blowing balloons.
  • My daughter was twisting in front of a store. A big Hell’s Angel type guy started hassling her for using a pump. He grabbed a balloon from her and blew and blew and passed out cold, and they had to call the EMT’s for him right there in the parking lot. The next week he would not go near her.
  • I used to inflate by mouth until I was about to fall! Unfortunately one of my lungs started to feel strange. After I switched to using a pump intermittently, the strange feeling mysteriously vanished. Although if I blow up a lot of balloons in a day, then I can feel it again slightly.
  • I was doing balloons for a table when I accidentally popped a balloon near a child’s ear. Sadly this child was a severe epileptic. He went into horrible seizures, and his parents had to carry him out of the restaurant.


  • I have felt a small (but growing) headache when I get towards the upper limit of my number of balloons in a day. I used to think that it was caused by working in the sun all day, but it was explained to me by another balloon artist this way. Blowing balloons by mouth can raise your blood pressure slowly as you work. The headache that you feel is a cumulative result of the higher blood pressure.
  • If you start to get a headache, take a couple of slow, deep breaths in between each balloon. When I’m getting tired, I can avoid the headaches, by fully exhaling after inflating each balloon.
  • It seems to me that if blowing up balloons by mouth gives you a headache, you’re doing something your body is telling you not to do. It’s true that I have many fond memories of doing things my body told me not to do (“no pain, no gain” is usually a machismo fantasy). If your body has pain, it seems to me it’s because something’s wrong.
  • I didn’t have a pain free method at the outset. Every time I found a problem in my technique causing me an ailment, I just did my best to change it.
  • When I started I could just barely blow a 260. . . As I progressed I found that the headache took longer and longer to develop and it soon reached a point where it never came around. I can now inflate over a thousand 260’s/130’s by mouth in a day and never suffer any ill effects at all.
  • Others (myself included) get headaches. I had blown up balloons by mouth for years but didn’t correlate the headaches I’d notice an hour later with the earlier ballooning. As a doctor I now understand the mechanisms involved, and I suggest everyone use a pump.


  • In Encyclopedic Balloon Modeling Course, George Sands writes: “HEALTH WARNING – Some balloon artists have become partially blind from inflating balloons. Be forewarned. Avail yourself of any balloon blowing apparatus on the market.” Under his section entitled PROPER METHOD OF INFLATING, he writes “Use an air pump.”
  • On the radio, Paul Harvey said that doctors at some college have completed a study of life-long trumpet players which indicates that blowing hard to reach for those high notes promotes glaucoma.
  • I have heard that after years of blowing by mouth one can experience serious physical problems. According to what I’ve heard blowing balloons can have an adverse effect on the small delicate nerves in the eye and mouth areas.
  • Blowing balloons by mouth can have an effect on the eyes. I have heard various reasons why this is so – from back pressure in your head to nerve damage.
  • Mouth inflation can cause potentially serious health problems intrinsic to the pressure needed to inflate the balloons. Many people get by just fine, but eye damage due to increased intraocular pressure (pressure within the eye itself) has been reported. As a doctor, I now understand the mechanisms involved, and I suggest everyone use a pump.
  • There are a variety of eye injuries that have been described associated with balloons: If a balloon pops right in front of the eye, it can cause anything from a corneal abrasion (scratch on the cornea of the eye, which needs treatment since it can lead to infection and scarring, usually drops and an eye patch, if needed), a hyphema (bleeding into the eye in a place called the anterior chamber), which can cause a problem like glaucoma. It can also cause a contusion to the eye or surrounding structures. Although many of the injuries one gets from balloon bursting can be minor, a serious injury to the eye can possibly result in problems in vision, infection, etc. So, if you happen to experience an injury, be aware and see your doctor. A pump would definitely help, as well as protective glasses, and remember to twist away from your face since balloons can also pop after inflation.
  • Balloons are associated with a large variety of eye injuries, to both the balloonist and the audience. A large balloon popping near a child’s eye can result in a corneal abrasion, hemorrhage into the anterior chamber of the eye (Hyphema), or even a rupture of the globe.
  • If a balloon pops and a piece hits you in the eye, you will be in serious pain. This is exactly why I am glad I have to wear eyeglasses (and would never consider contact lenses)! Eyeglasses have saved my eyesight countless times in many situations. If you are concerned about preventing this type of accident and don’t want to wear clunky-looking safety glasses, do your twisting in sun glasses or visit an optometrist and get a good looking set of frames with clear (non-correcting) lenses.
  • Balloons exploding near the eye: This can be cause corneal abrasions, resulting in burning and redness of the eye. This is even though you can’t see the abrasion because it can only seen by an ophthalmologist with a florecien stain and a slit lamp. So don’t neglect your eyes. If an injury does occur, go see a doctor. Glasses are a good form of eye protection.
  • I’ve had balloons blow up in my face many times. About half the time there’s some warning — the balloon will blow up with a kink in it, or inflate with a decidedly variable flow, or behave strangely in some respect just before it goes. However, if I didn’t always wear my glasses when twisting, I suspect I’d have gotten slapped pretty good a couple of times. As it is, I just get a stung cheek once every night or two.
  • I was inflating a sapphire 260Q, and it burst. That balloon smacked me in the eye worse than I imagined possible! At first I thought I was going to have to go to the hospital. After a couple of moments I dried the tears and went back to work trying to control the inflation with my eyes closed.
  • I was “poofing” the tail of a poodle at a birthday party when the “poof” popped, and a piece of the balloon went in the child’s eye. Periodically the “poof” pops and you need to be far enough away so it doesn’t do any damage. The mother of the birthday child removed the small piece of balloon from the child’s eye with a tissue. I did not hear anymore about it. I was, however, glad that I carried liability insurance even though nothing came of it. You can’t be too careful. I use a Balloon Buoy pump and wear glasses so I don’t have to worry about my eyes.
  • This is a serious problem. Twisters have separated the layers of cells in the back of their eyeball from the impact of a popped 260. This is a real, lasting injury. If you blow by mouth enough and don’t wear glasses, you will eventually get popped in the eye. It slows down the show. I don’t wear glasses, so I hold my fingers over my face if I’m blowing by mouth, but I’ve still been popped in the eye through my fingers. Safety glasses are reasonable. A motorcycle helmet is not a bad idea. I wear either Groucho glasses or a pair of glasses with the eyeballs on springs. (There’s a picture of me wearing them at They cover just enough to deflect anything like a balloon fragment, and they get a great reaction. I explain that protective eye wear is important whenever doing anything dangerous. Adults just laugh when I put them on and assume I’m kidding. Kids laugh at me but most acknowledge that safety is important to them too. So, you can be funny, safe, and deliver a message, all for $.99. (When doing dangerous magic tricks, I also have my assistants wearing safety goggles.)
  • While inflating, I always tell people to hold the balloon with the palm outwards, back of the hand above the mouth and shielding the eyes.
  • Tom Myers is concerned about the trunk or tusks on the elephant hat becoming a possible eye injurer when they pop. My only advice is to let enough air back out of the balloon to make it soft so that it won’t make near as much noise if &/or when it does pops.
  • After being snapped in the eye ONCE, I changed my inflation procedure. I hold the balloon between my thumb & index finger, palm out. I place my index finger against my nose, causing the back of my hand to be protecting my eyes. I let the index finger & thumb of my other hand glide down the balloon, while inflating, “feeling for imperfections”. If one is felt, I stop and check it out. I still get popped, but not in the eye, and it has certainly decreased getting snapped as much as before. Also, aim the balloon down and away as you fill it. And I notice that, of the hand in my face, the middle, ring, & little fingers are almost in my eye.
  • I got smacked in the eye by a (green) 260 last Christmas. I ended up wearing an eye-patch for about four days. I never went to a doctor, because after the first day it started to feel better, but every now and again, I wonder if I should’ve. Now when my eyes get tired, the spot where I got snapped gets pretty sore. Don’t mess with your eyes! I still worry a bit that a balloon might blind me. I suggest to those who mouth inflate to wear glasses (even if you need to put plain glass in there). Sight is something that you don’t want to play with.


  • If you blow too hard (the most obvious sign is puffing up your cheeks) you build pressure inside your head. That pressure can do serious damage to your eyes and can at least cause temporary pain in your ears (I don’t know how serious that can be for your ears).
  • I am able to blow a balloon by mouth, but, whenever I do, I always end up with an ear infection. The same thing happens during allergy season when I sneeze a lot.
  • If a 3 foot balloon blows up in your face, you won’t hear properly for several minutes. I expect a balloon popping right over your ear could cause damage. Loud noises can do it to your ears. Don’t wear ear protection at a pistol range, and your ears will ring for days.
  • I made a hat for a young lady who was delighted with it. She put it on and started to walk off when the damned thing exploded. She screamed, then realized she could not hear out of her right ear. After 5 minutes of sobbing and near hysteria she finally realized she COULD hear again, calmed down, then went about her business. It is scary to have a balloon hat pop on your head. I’ve never seen anyone hurt but I have seen people scared. One of the things you mention was the wind. Balloons hate wind. While you may have placed the hat on her head properly it is natural to pull down on a hat when it feels like it might blow off. If it is windy, I try to stay with compact figures.
  • I used to make the headphones from Marvin Hardy’s book. But last week I built one for a friend of mine. He was wearing it on his head when someone else burst it with a cigarette. His ear was injured because of the noise. Now his listening ability is down on 85%. It was nobody’s fault, but I felt bad. I have stopped making headphones. Which is a pity because the kids go crazy for them. Other Balloons (like hats) are not that dangerous, I hope, because they don’t burst directly over the ear, only nearby.
  • We always wear ear and eye protectors. I won’t let anyone work for me that won’t wear them. When I go to any convention I always bring my protectors, and I have yet to see many others do the same. Popping balloons have a high decibel level, and I want to be able to hear grandchildren one day. Also I don ‘t want to go to an IBAC in the year 2020 and have all us old timers there with hearing aides.
  • Blowing up balloons by mouth can definately lead to some serious middle ear infections….
    Carol Cleary , B.A. Loon and Co, Bradenton, FL (aka: CCC-SLP – Speech Language Pathologist)


  • I don’t know if this really constitutes an honest-to-gosh hazard, but in inflating balloons, I’ve ‘inflated’ a sinus once or twice. (At least that’s what I think I’ve done.) The gist of it is that I’ll take my breath for inflation and start blowing into the balloon. Just before the balloon starts, I suddenly feel an air current in my jaw. The jaw is then puffy (with air) for a few minutes afterwards. It doesn’t seem to do any harm, but I can’t blow up balloons for some time after without it happening again. I’ve not had this happen for many years, and, at the time, the air current seemed to be through a tooth socket where I’d had a tooth pulled in the previous year or two. So I might recommend using an air pump if you’ve had teeth pulled, or at least keeping a pump around if you’re working and have had teeth pulled in the last year or two.
  • On a talk show I saw comedian Howie Mandell discuss why he doesn’t do his “glove” routine anymore. (In case you never saw it, he used to do a routine advising the public about how delicate and fragile latex gloves were, and how you had to be very careful with them or they’d break, etc. He would continue with all these warnings while he unwrapped one, stretched it open, stretched it over the top of his HEAD and down over his nose. He would then keep talking while inhaling through his mouth and exhaling through his nose, inflating the glove until it towered over his head.)
    Anyway, one night while doing this, he got an intense pain behind his face and went to the hospital. Now it really gets funny. The doctor, who had never heard of Howie, told him he had punctured a sinus and asked him if he ever did anything that could pressurize his head, like flying in airplanes, scuba diving, etc. Mandell replied, “Why yes, for the last 2 years I’ve been stretching gloves over my head and inflating them 5 times a night.” After giving him a look worth a thousand words, the doctor replied: “Well, don’t do that anymore.”Surgical Emphysema
  • Has anyone told him about surgical emphysema? It means that air has found its way to places it ought not be. If you blow by mouth, you have it. Some folks, like Dizzy Gillespie, can clear those places where air should not be on a voluntary basis. However, most people can not. There is no danger from the syndrome itself, but while “inflated” you leave yourself open to bacterial and viral invasion.
  • I’m sorry, I don’t mean to make fun of this, but the statement: “And if you blow by mouth, you have it.” seems like a VERY broad characterization designed to cause hysterics. If what was meant was “IF you have poor technique, then you MAY have it.”… then I’ll settle back and quietly agree. On the other hand, my son is no Dizzy G., but he sure can wail on his sax. He’s been blowing balloons since the first grade, and has never puffed his cheeks, had air blow back into the throat because of pressure, ear aches or anything else of that nature. What it did do to him was perhaps prepare him a bit for his sax.
  • I’ve found that a product called A.L.J., by Nature’s Sunshine, has dealt nicely with surgical emphysema for me. It’s an herbal antihistamine that keeps the air out of my ears.


  • Never put a balloon in or on your mouth after another person has done so. There is nothing like fresh saliva to transmit germs. Not only do you risk the usual flu and cold bugs, but, with kids (who have a tendency to get their hands into a lot of things and then put their fingers in their mouths) there is also a risk of Hepatitis A, Herpes Simplex I and other such nifty critters.
  • Don’t blow up balloons that anyone else has blown up or tried to blow up! You don’t know where those children’s mouths have been, much less what illnesses they may be carrying. If someone offers the balloon back to me, I decline. I say, “No thanks, I don’t know where you’ve been, and vice versa.” Parents always smile and nod with a look of sudden realization. It’s like drinking out of a stranger’s cup, ya know?
  • While they are impressed that you can inflate the balloons, parents are not happy to see their child sucking on the balloon in the same place you just had your mouth! In fact I know of one balloon worker who was inflating by mouth and got sued. One kid who received an animal later came down with pneumonia and had to be hospitalized. The parents claimed the balloon worker had inflated the balloon by mouth and coughed a few times at the party. They served him with a subpoena, put him on the stand, asked him health questions, and got a list of parties the balloonist did 2-4 weeks prior to the plaintiff’s party. They found that some kids from the parties had become ill afterwards, and the balloon worker was nailed as the carrier! The balloon worker lost the suit, and was ordered to pay all medical bills, pain and suffering, etc….
  • I’ve noticed my mouth is much less sore if I’m careful to not allow any ‘blow back’ (can you tell I just made up that term?) from the balloon. I think it’s the talc that causes most of my throat soreness when inflating by mouth.
  • As for blowing by mouth, I find that the factory-installed powder tends to turn my lips into dry, cracked strips of jerky if I don’t take time to keep them hydrated by drinking heavily (water).
  • I blow by mouth and I get a dry mouth, and I get very thirsty – especially since I talk a lot too. If I go for too long without taking a drink to replenish myself, I do end up with a sore throat. However, if I’m going to work long hours I am generally well prepared to prevent this from happening.
  • Sometimes I get a sore throat but I attribute it to dehydration and talking too much. As a mouth blower (doesn’t sound nice said like that) I tend to dehydrate more than my counterparts who use pumps.
  • I find that I definitely get dehydrated during a busy shift. I don’t recall it ever getting to the sore throat stage. On a busy night when things start to slow down enough for me to take stock, I realize that I’m very thirsty, so I drink a large soda and a glass of water or two — often a quart or more total. This is usually after blowing up 150-250 balloons.


  • I’ve been blowing up 260’s on a regular basis for the last 2 years. Now, over the last several months, I’ve been greeted by expressions of wonder as my clients exclaim, “WOW! Look at those cheeks!” Needless to say, that is worrying me a bit. If you blow up enough balloons, is there a risk of looking like Dizzy Gillespie? The short answer is YES. At IBAC, I saw a twister who could have been Dizzy’s double. Plus another twister warned me personally, “Keep your cheeks in! See these jowls? I didn’t have them 10 years ago.” Note that you didn’t say you have Winton Marsalis jowls or Sergio Mendez jowls. Why did you pick Dizzy Gillespie? Because he spent 50 years blowing his horn incorrectly, and admitted doing so. Trombone playing (trumpet playing, saxophone playing, etc.) balloon sculptors were taught how to send the air straight through our mouths into the instrument. Air in your cheeks is air that isn’t going into the balloon.
  • I saw Dizzie on a documentary about his life and learned something about the famous cheeks. Dizzie told of an author writing a medical book who wanted a photograph of Dizzie’s puffed up face. He offered to name the condition after Dizzie in exchange for the use of his image. Dizzie agreed and the condition is now called “Gillespie Pouches”. At least according to Dizzie
  • I’m going to be a little harsh, because it’s important for the new people. If you’re experiencing the following symptoms when you inflate balloons by mouth for hours on end:
    1. A salty taste in your mouth that tastes like blood
    2. The insides of your cheeks become A LOT rougher
    3. The insides of your cheeks peel for the next few days

    …then you are inflating your balloons incorrectly, and you MUST learn to keep your cheeks in when you blow up balloons! Skin and tissue are simply AMAZING materials. They don’t respond like a typical inanimate object because they are ALIVE! When you pull on a piece of metal, it stretches. When you pull on a piece of living tissue, it responds in many ways:

    • Load a living bone in compression and NEW BONE CELLS GROW to help carry the load.
    • Lay weightless up in space for 6 months and your bones “un-grow” as your body re-absorbs them.
    • Muscles respond to stress too. The entire health-club industry owes its livelihood to that fact. There is even a sensory receptor called a “stretch receptor” that responds to the stretching of tissue.
    • Same for skin – when you get pregnant, do lots of body-building or gain a lot of weight, your skin gets stressed and more of it GROWS to cover up all your new insides. You’ll even get “stretch marks” – linear marks on the skin (esp. of the stomach or thighs) when they have been distended by pregnancy or obesity.

    So back to balloons – if you stress your cheeks by puffing them up, they are going to stretch. Tissues stretch, then rip, capillaries break, tissue dies and is sloughed off. Then the body tries to relieve the stress by causing more tissue to grow. This leads to Dizzy Gillespie cheeks and jowls. If your cheeks are peeling, give them a rest until they’re completely healed (they will still be permanently enlarged – this happens every time you stress your cheeks this way, but it takes a couple of years for the enlargement to become noticeable). Then, practice inflating balloons with your cheeks tight. You have to concentrate on it – even now, after 25 years, I have to remind myself. What I do is I make a definite effort to keep my cheeks held in. I squeeze them shut when I blow. It hurts otherwise. It’s never too late to start doing it right. The condition will only get worse, not better, if you continue with bad habits. If you simply can’t learn to inflate the balloon without puffing your cheeks, use a pump. There’s no reason to hurt yourself – balloons are supposed to be fun for everybody.

    It seems easier to puff your cheeks when you first get started, but it’s actually harder. You will inflate your balloons faster and more easily when you learn to hold your cheeks in. Try really hard not to puff out your cheeks when you inflate. All the power comes from your diaphragm. If you are using your cheeks or allowing them to puff out, you are dissipating some of the force of the inflation. This is why many people can’t inflate the 260. They use cheek power instead of the diaphragm. This is also why horn players do it so well because they are used to using the diaphragm to produce the column of air.

  • I know that mouthers run the risk of hurting their cheeks. I have trouble with irritation and some bleeding. Is there anything I can use to aid any irritation?
    • I would take two approaches. The first is preventive; use a pump all the time. If you are going to occasionally mouth inflate, keep in practice. If you only do it now and then, you can lose your technique. The key is to use your diaphragm and not to let your cheeks puff out as you inflate. The mucus membrane of the cheeks is delicate and easily injured. The good news is that such an injury heals quickly. But, if repeated on a regular basis, you can form some scar tissue (those who bite their cheek a lot will testify to the ‘ridges’ that develop in side their mouths.
    • The second is to treat the injury when it occurs. This will be mostly symptomatic because again, the lining of the mouth is a rapid turnover kind of tissue, so it heals quickly. Camphophinique or any of the over the counter teething pain treatments that include a topical anesthetic will work. If you enjoy pain, a good swish and spit with hot salt water ‘hurts so good’. If you enjoy calories, popsicles or ice-cream will make you feel better but not really speed healing.

Neck, Shoulders and Back

  • I started having problems with my shoulder. The doctor told me I had to quit ballooning for a while to let my shoulder heal. The only thought I had was the restaurants and mall that I normally have scheduled. What to do with them? I could cover some of them, but not all. I took my nephew, or my wife, to help, but still found that the doctor was right. I would get home pretty sore. Then I thought of something. Why not try blowing them up by mouth? I found that by not using the pump I have been able to do the jobs I had scheduled, without the pain. (Ha) I thought the pain was from the twisting of the balloons, but it was actually the motion of the hand pump.I am now happily twisting away again, with my shoulder not bothering me. I am so glad I learned to blow the balloons up by mouth. I still keep the pump with me, unless I am at a party, where I use Pump O. You never know when I might need it, like when I’m using one of the new metallic colors.

    I guess the next step is to find an electric pump that is not so loud it drives the people nuts.

  • I have a chiropractor who helps me all around with back and neck aches from pushing on pumps as well as soothing the wrists and tingly fingers.I’ve also discovered that Vitamin B 6 (100mg) 3 times a day really helps aleviate the pain.


  • I have noticed that when I’m doing a large show (such as a few days of busking) that I get a very sore throat. It’s from all the back pressure all day long just seems to do some minor damage to the throat.
  • Usually when someone says, “You’re cheating,” for using a pump, I tell them about a local twister I know. I was going to meet this guy in a restaurant to go over some balloon stuff. When he showed up he had a HUGE lump under his chin. He explained to me in a very raspy voice that he had done a birthday party the night before for 100 kids and had blown out his throat!!
  • I was told by a teenager that he had tried so hard to inflate a 260 that he developed a “bump” on the side of his neck that lasted several days.
  • This comes from improper inflation technique. About 5 years ago, I ended up in the ER where I received a diagnosis of “parotitis”.. . . (not the mumps but that same name) that stemmed from bad oral inflation technique. They gave me a shot of morphine and sent me on my way home. It is something to be wary of.
  • A few weeks ago, I was twisting at one of my regular gigs, when all of a sudden, I noticed there was a lump in my throat that was sort of painful, but more of a nuisance. I discontinued inflating by mouth for the remainder of the gig (I have a Pump 1, and alternate back-and-forth). The following day I went in to Urgent Care and was told that there was a possibility that I had forced air into some of the tissues inside my throat. If it didn’t go away in a few days, I should come back. This condition was very annoying, feeling the lump every time I swallowed, and, at times, I was even experiencing reflux (extreme heartburn) type symtoms. I am happy to report that it did indeed “go away,” and that I am now back to my usual inflation methods as before. But I took it easy for about two weeks, I and continue to be careful when inflating by mouth.

Choking (General)

  • When balloons fragment, and a piece is aspirated into the airway, the Heimlich maneuver is generally ineffective. The balloon, when placed over the airway, acts like a diaphragm and moves up and down with air movement, and generally fails to dislodge in position. I know of a case where a doctor would give his patients a balloon at the end of the visit…until a kid aspirated the balloon and choked in the office. He died because they could not dislodge the balloon in time, even in the doctors office.
  • I was at a convention this past weekend, where one of the lecturers shared that “Balloons were made to inflate. Because of this, the Heimlich maneuver will rarely ever work to remove one from a child’s throat — it takes a special suction machine.” This gave me even more incentive to avoid giving them to young children!
  • I’ve got a theory about why older kids choke on pieces of latex. How old were you when you figured out you could stretch the dead balloon across your mouth and suck in to make a little balloon inside your mouth? I expect this is the most dangerous thing you can do with a piece of latex.
  • We deny balloons to little ones to protect them, but if an older child is going to choke, it’s more likely than not a balloon is involved. In my experience, lots of older kids suck on balloons like pacifiers and some even chew them. Depending on the kids (I twist often for economically disadvantaged kids), even the strongest warnings I know how to give seemingly go in one ear and out the other.
  • If the kids see you putting your mouth on a balloon, they will put their mouths on the balloon. Yuck! Germs! (Also, the possibility of the balloon popping in their mouth is wonderful potential for choking.)
  • A bit of news. Today I discovered that over 100 people lose their lives each year due to choking on pens. Writing pens. The 3-10 children a year that lose their lives on balloons seems to be in better perspective.
  • I was recently excited to get some actual facts about kids and choking on balloons. After the December’s coverage of that poorly and inaccurately done research article, it’s nice to see real figures. The Balloon Council’s recent release of their new booklet contains the same articles of helium releases and environmental issues of balloons, but also includes an article with some new statistics. The article was not fully exhaustive and assumed that a recent decrease of deaths are due to printed warning labels on the balloon packages. The facts from the Consumer Product Safety Commission reports choking deaths in these years nationally to be:
    • 1973 – 12
    • 74 – 10
    • 75 – 8
    • 76 – 4
    • 77 – 6
    • 78 – 6
    • 79 – 7
    • 80 – 16
    • 81 – 10
    • 82 – 10
    • 83 – 11
    • 84 – 9
    • 85 – 6
    • 86 – 16
    • 87 – 14
    • 88 – 7
    • 89 – 16
    • 90 – 14
    • 91 – 4
    • 92 – 5
    • 93 – 7
    • 94 – 6

    So you do the math. The numbers do fluctuate. But let’s give a little perspective. My traffic school instructor said tonight that 44,000 individuals die in auto accidents every year. The Balloon council booklet ends the article by stating that the leading cause of death for children are tricycles and bicycles, numbering 288 fatalities per year. So, please, inform parents about these stats, and let’s not let myth and fear surround our twisting when parents ask us about choking. Of course the #1 rule should be for twisters and parents to exert caution with balloons.
    To order this brochure, call 800-233-8887.

  • I heard from a hospital clown that you should never give these colors to kids: Red, Barney Purple and Pink. These are the same colors that are in your throat, and, if a paramedic/doctor looks down your throat, they can’t see these colors.
  • I understand and agree 100% with cautious policies regarding giving balloons to small children, especially those 2 years and younger. I’d say that ~85% of the time, the parent is grateful that, as a busker, I am more concerned with the child’s well-being than with taking their money. Maybe 10% of the time the parents get angry that they don’t their way and storm off…(great example for the kids, no?)Beware of the parent who says, “Well, just make me one instead” or “Just make her sister an extra one instead.” You know damn well they are going to walk five steps and hand that baby the balloon. It just makes me sick.

    I have dealt with it a few ways myself: running after them and returning the tip and retrieving the balloon from the toddler’s mouth, saying “Mommie, have you ever seen a child choke to death on a balloon?” No matter what her reply is I will say, “I haven’t, and I don’t want to see it today. So please keep the balloon out of Bobby’s mouth (I AM smiling, but I am also firm.)

  • The Wednesday, November 26th issue of the Chicago Tribune has a balloon related article in Section 2, page 9 – near the obituaries, “Group pops the balloon’s bubble” is the title.Paragraph 2 states, “The No. 1 risk to children at play remains the simple balloon, said Vivien Watts, director of the Illinois Public Interest Research Group”. The article continues with information about common toys deemed most dangerous and near the end states, “In 1996 alone, said Watts, 13 children died playing with toys. Ten of them died from choking, and seven of those children choked on balloons”.

    And, in her conclusion, stated, “Choking on small toy parts, balloons and small balls continues to be the leading cause of toy-related deaths, killing about 15 children each year since 1980, according to commission statistics. “Little kids pick up the balloons, open them and inadvertently inhale a small portion of the balloon”, said Dr. Steven Krug, head of emergency medicine at Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago.”

    While the death of any child is clearly a horrible tragedy, we all need to consider each of the risks we face relative to the multitude of risks that are out there.

    For example, what does the CDC National Center for Health Statistics say about infant mortality?

    In 1995,looking at all races, both sexes, ages 1-4 (the ages most likely to be putting objects in their mouth), you’ll see that 6,393 children died. Of those deaths:

    • 825 of them were due to motor vehicle accidents
    • 452 of them were due to “homicide and legal intervention”
    • 156 of them were due to pneumonia and influenza
    • 210 of them were due to HIV infection
    • 1495 of them were due to “all other accidents and adverse effects” [the remaining deaths were due to currently unpreventable causes such as malignent neoplasms, congenital defects, etc.]


    Those numbers look a LOT bigger to me than the 15/year rate quoted for choking on balloons. Could it be that infants choking on balloons, while a terrible tragedy, is actually a fairly uncommon cause of infant mortality?

    Yes, I think we can say this is objectively true…. So what’s the point of all this?

    Rather than focusing a lot of attention and concern over a miniscule risk that is basically not even “on the charts”, I’d suggest parents and concerned citizens….

    • work to encourage use of child car seats for each and every child on each and every trip (i.e., go after those 825 motor vehicle related infant deaths)
    • work to eliminate battering and other child abuse (go after those 425 infant homicides — an incredibly high number to my way of thinking)
    • work on improving access to low cost medical treatment and well baby care (it is ludicrous that 156 children in one of the most developed countries in the world die of pneumonia and/or influenza)
    • work on controlling the spread of HIV (210 deaths)
    • look at all the *other* sources of misery and accidental infant deaths such as:
      • deaths or serious illnesses preventable by timely immunizations,
      • drownings preventable by proper supervision, water safety training, use of personal floatation devices in watercraft, etc.
      • life threatening burns (for example, from spilled hot liquids)
      • suffocation from carbon monoxide, use of plastic bags as toys, etc.
      • poisonings from accidental ingestion of medications or solvents,
      • severe cuts (including cuts caused by breaking plate glass),
      • falls (down stairs, off improperly designed playground equipment, etc)
      • fires (particularly in the absence of fire detectors),
      • electrical shocks (due to insertion of objects into electrical outlets, for example)

    Does this mean that balloon professionals should encourage the careless use of balloons in conjunction with children, for example giving balloons to small children to play with unsupervised, or failing to pick up and dispose of the pieces of a broken balloon? No, obviously it does not. However an inspection of the numbers SHOULD help put the relatively small risk associated with choking on balloons in perspective and avoid hysterical overreaction to a risk that is manageable with a few simple rules:

    • Don’t give uninflated balloons to small children to play with unattended.
    • Pick up and promptly dispose of the pieces of any balloons that break.
  • Saw the folllowing in the December 15th issue of Bottom Line Personal (Volume 18 Number 24):

    … Latex balloons are particularly hazardous to kids. Latex is smooth and conforms to the trachea — it blocks a child’s airway and is almost impossible to expel with the Heimlich maneuver. Shiny foil balloons are easier to inflate (and therefore less likely to be sucked into a child’s throat) … do not tend to explode into small pieces … and are less likely to comform to the shape of the trachea if they are accidentally swallowed.

    Heather Paul, PhD, executive director, National Safe Kids Campaign, Washington, DC.
  • I was told by an emergency room nurse that what makes balloons so dangerous is that large pieces can obstruct a child’s airway. It’s the surface area that is deadly. A large piece of balloon can overlay the airway and is almost impossible to remove.

Choking (Journal of the AMA Article)

  • On December 13, 1995 both the Charlotte (NC) Observer and, probably more importantly, the USA Today newspapers briefly reported on a recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) concerning balloons as the top cause of non-food choking deaths in children. According to the newspaper article, the study looked at 449 non-food choking deaths a twenty-year period, from 1972-1992. 29% of choking deaths were caused by balloons, 19% by balls or marbles, and 20% by “other toys.”
  • This article is actually a combination of two separate studies:
    • A five-year study of kids who had to have a scope placed down their throat (endoscopy) to retrieve an object choking them. 165 kids. No deaths mentioned, and the endoscopy study does not mention balloons at all. The big offenders were food, 36 kids (22%), and coins, 60 kids (36%).
    • A ten-year study of the causes of death in children from choking on non-food items, as reported to the Consumer Product Safety Division. In this study, balloons caused 130 (29%) deaths overall. When broken down by ages, 78 of the kids were 3 or older, and 44 were younger than 3.
  • Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) article on Choking and Children December 13 issue, volume 274, p.1763 Characteristics of Objects That Cause Choking in Children Frank L. Rimell, MD; Antonio Thome, Jr., MD; Sylvan Stool, MD; James S. Reilly, MD; Gene Rider; Daniel Stool; Cheryl L. Wilson
    • Objective: To characterize the types, shapes, and sizes of objects causing choking or asphyxiation in children, and to compare these characteristics to current standards.
    • Design: To evaluate morbidity, retrospective 5-year medical record survey; to evaluate mortality, data re-analysis.
    • Settings: Pediatric hospital and consumer product testing laboratory.
    • Patients: All children (n=165) who underwent endoscopy for foreign body aspiration or ingestion at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh (Pa) between 1989 and 1993, and children (n=449) whose deaths were caused by choking on man-made objects and recorded by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) between 1972 and 1992.
    • Main Outcome Measures: Objects removed from children’s aero-digestive tracts were characterized by location, procedure for removal, and type. Objects causing death were characterized by type, shape, and consistency. Three-dimensional objects that had caused asphyxiation were analyzed by computer-simulated models.
    • Results: Of the 165 children treated by endoscopy, 69% were 3 years of age or younger. Foreign bodies most often ingested or aspirated were food (in 36 children) and coins (in 60 children). Of 449 children whose deaths after aspirating foreign bodies were reported to the CPSC, 65% were younger than 3 years. Balloons caused 29% of deaths overall. Conforming objects such as balloons caused a significantly higher proportion of deaths in those aged 3 years or older (60%) vs. those younger than 3 years (33%). Of the 101 objects causing deaths that we could analyze, 14 met current standards for use by children younger than 3 years.
    • Conclusions: Balloons pose a significant risk of asphyxiation to children of any age. Changes in regulations regarding products intended for children’s use might have prevented up to 14 (14%) of 101 deaths in this study.
  • More disturbing to me than this article was an accompanying editorial (which did not get picked up in the papers) entitled, “Designing the Death out of Balloons.” (see below) The authors of this segment (Susan P. Baker and Kopl Halperin) don’t seem to think that education and warnings about the dangers of balloons to small children are sufficient to prevent choking. They think that design changes are needed.They assert that mylar balloons would be less likely to block a child’s airway and also suggest modifications to latex balloons. These modifications include: establishment of a minimum size, inclusion of a rigid plastic ring in balloons (though what happens when the balloon breaks beats me), texturing the balloons to allow a greater chance of airflow, putting something bitter on the balloons to make them taste bad, or finding a latex-like substance that dissolves on contact with saliva.

    The part of their study which breaks things down by age (recall, the newspaper reported that a greater proportion of kids over 3 choked on balloons) actually looked at objects classed by shape or consistency, not specific type. In both cases, balloons fell into the “conforming” category. This category also included other objects, such as disposable diaper stuffing. I’m not sure from the article just what proportion of the “conforming” categories were balloons (the numbers are less than precise in this case). In their discussion, they tend to equate “conforming” with balloons.

  • Balloons Cause More Choking Deaths in Children Than Any Other Nonfood ProductCHICAGO–Researchers are urging the US government to regulate balloons and tighten restrictions on other products made for children, after finding that many choking deaths are caused by objects that meet government standards, according to an article in this week’s issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

    Frank L. Rimell, MD., formerly of Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, Pa., now with the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, and colleagues conducted what is believed to be the first analysis of the shapes, consistencies and sizes of objects causing choking deaths in children.

    They examined the medical records of 165 children who underwent endoscopy for foreign body aspiration or ingestion at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh between 1989-1993. They also examined records from the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) on 449 children, aged 14 years and younger, who choked to death on nonfood objects between 1972-1992.

    The researchers found that conforming objects such as balloons were responsible for the most deaths (29 percent), followed by round objects such as balls and marbles (19 percent), and toy products, parts, or characters (20 percent). The remaining 32 percent of the deaths were caused by products not intended for use by young children.

    Of the 165 children treated at Children’s Hospital, the items most often recovered were coins and food such as nuts, vegetable or fruit pieces, seeds and popcorn. Other items recovered included plastic pieces, hardware, and batteries.

    The researchers found that in both groups, two-thirds of the children were three years of age or younger; however, they found that children over the age of three were twice as likely to die from balloon asphyxiation than children younger than age three. In two cases, children died after choking on latex examining gloves given to them in physicians’ offices.

    The authors write: “These findings indicate a need for greater public awareness of the dangers balloons pose to children of any age and a search for solutions to the problem. Clinicians should keep examination gloves and similar supplies out of reach of children and caution others caring for, or interacting with, children about the hazards of these objects.”

    After conforming objects, round objects posed the greatest risk of choking death by a nonfood item. A computer analysis of 101 rigid, three-dimensional objects which had asphyxiated children found that 14 had passed the government’s Small Parts Test Fixture (SPFT), which is a cylinder with a diameter of 3.17 centimeters (cm) and a depth between 2.54 and 5.71 cm. Objects that are too large to fit in the cylinder pass the SPFT and are deemed acceptable for young children.

    The researchers write: “All 14 of these deaths might have been prevented if the SPFT had been 4.44 cm in diameter and 7.62 cm in length.”

    They add: “Others have commented that most foods causing choking death are spherical; in several reports the majority of children asphyxiated by food lodged in the airway had aspirated round or cylindrical foods (hot dogs, peanuts, seeds, grapes, and hard candies).”

  • From the article previously mentionedDesigning the Death out of Balloons

    In an accompanying editorial in this week’s JAMA, Susan P. Baker, M.P.H., and Kopl Halperin, Ph.D., Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health, Baltimore, Md., write: “In the new study, a finding of particular interest is the preponderance of balloons among objects causing fatal aspiration. Balloons, long exempted from regulation by the CPSC, kill more children than any other toy except for bicycles and other riding toys.”

    (What she doesn’t say is how many deaths from balloons relative to the other toys. Given the trivial numbers from this study I’m sure its quite a large gap. Reason would suggest we should place our “protective emphasis” on these other toys that are agreater [in relative terms] danger)

    They offer several solutions to make balloons safer, including making them with mylar or inflatable paper, neither of which “would be likely to block a child’s airway.” They also suggest a minimum size for balloons and that a plastic ring of at least 4.4 cm in diameter be placed inside each balloon.

    They add: “A minority of balloon deaths involve a broken piece of balloon, but some strategies are applicable to both broken and intact balloons. For example, balloons could be designed with ridges or bumps that would allow air to flow between the surface of the airway and the aspirated latex. To prevent children from mouthing balloons or their fragments, a bittering agent could be incorporated into the balloons, exclusive to the mouthpiece. Other research might yield substances that react with saliva to separate into non-hazardous particles or to form a soluble or non-adherent material.”

    The editorialists conclude: “The long-standing problem of asphyxiation by balloons should have been addressed long ago. Surely changes can be made now to avert future deaths.”

    (I hate to say it, since I went to the Johns Hopkins Medical School, but this lady needs to come out of her ivory tower and join reality for a little while. In technical terms, she’s a Wacko)

  • Further Observations:
    • No mention of the shape/ type of balloons that were found was made, nor was there mention of whether they were whole balloons or fragments. In fact, two of the “balloons” were not balloons at all, but latex exam gloves the kids got while at the doctors. (The authors point out to their physician readers that they should avoid doing this.)
    • The USA Today article goes on to say that “warning labels went on balloons in January.” The article closes with a quote from a representative of the Consumer Products Safety Commission, suggesting parents “use common sense.”
    • A separate part of the study looked at foreign bodies removed operatively from children (in other words, these were not choking deaths). None of these were balloons(and that seems to agree with other work).
    • While any death is tragic, 1.4 preventable deaths/year (not all of which were attributable to balloons, by my understanding) given the total number of balloons that come into kids hands per year (a whole lot more round balloons than the nifty 260 I might add) means that the incidence (events per number of exposures) is very low. This really is not an impressive statistic.
    • This article on first glance is much more inflammatory than the data supports and the data is presented in a very poor/sloppy way.
    • It isn’t clear if the sentence “Changes in regulations…” refers to balloons or all items that caused death.
  • What statistics does the Balloon Council have about children choking on balloons?This is the long way, but it seems the best way to respond to your comments on the JAMA article and question “do children die from ingesting balloons?” is to give you the following excerpts from our letter to Dr. Rimmel, author of the JAMA article. It describes the difficulty we have had in getting data that we feel is reliable and the steps we took to develop the numbers we now use. ”
    • In 1992, we requested and got computer printouts from CPSC that tallied choking deaths from balloons. The information is compiled by the National Injury Information Clearinghouse. The information comes from three sources and is tallied separately: (1) death certificates, (2) accident reports from hospitals and (3) reports from medical personnel and news reports. We culled those documents to develop totals, by year, from which we created graphs, charts, etc. These printouts are no longer in our files, probably discarded when we received a newer batch.
    • In 1994, we requested and received updates of the printouts. At that point, we realized that information in some of the three reports was duplicated in others. Through visual examination, we adjusted our totals to reflect those duplications.
    • In April of this year, we again requested updates of the computer printouts. The totals reflected by these three different sources were considerably lower than our earlier numbers–and were lower than the total reflected in your JAMA article. Something clearly seemed to be wrong.
    • In early May, we requested that the Clearinghouse rerun the order. This batch totaled approximately the numbers we had for most of the earlier years. However, in some years, the new totals were lower than we had from earlier printouts. Whereas we could understand the number of deaths attributed to early years rising over time–as delayed reports were tallied–we were hard-put to explain a drop in the number of deaths for a year.
    • It was at this point that we inquired as to what data was used–primarily to see if it was any we had or yet something other. It seems to be other. We do have the Tinsworth report in our files but have not used it because it was done in 1989, and the Clearinghouse printouts were more up-to-date and include more deaths, per year.
    • Finally, in our effort to get the most solid count, per year, we entered all the data from the latest three sets of printouts in a software program that allows us to scan for duplicates. In entering the reports we eliminated deaths which– although related to balloons–did not involve swallowing a latex balloon (e.g. a child suffocated on a mylar balloon or from being entangled in string).

    Because the information is often not gathered in a scientific manner, we found it necessary to make some judgment calls as to which reports to include and which to label duplicates:

    First, we eliminated as duplicates those which involved the same age child, in the same city, on the same date (29 eliminated).

    Second, in more arbitrary decisions, we eliminated 14 where the city was not identical, but close enough to reflect home town/hospital site, or the ages of the children differed little (e.g. 1 month vs. 7 months). Along the way, we found two deaths that were reported three/four times.

    At the conclusion of these calculations, we have a total of 129 deaths from choking on a latex balloon from 1980-95. These are the numbers we will use until we get further updates…You will note that whereas when we relied on the 1994 figures supplied by the Clearinghouse we had 110 deaths from 1981-90, the new total now is 82. Repeating the calculations in Mr. Flynn’s letter to JAMA, we still find the trend is in the right direction–although not as dramatic as with the old numbers. The average number of deaths the 10 years before warning labels (1981-90) was 8.2. In the four years after, the average was 6.7.

    Considering how many more latex balloons are being sold and the new law requiring that all incidents involving latex balloons be reported, it is clear that the education program is making progress.

    Patricia Bario Public Information Officer The Balloon Council


  • Worried about the talcum? One breath…always OUTWARD, don’t inhale from the balloon. This should reduce the risk.
  • You also don’t want to forget to breathe with your nose while blowing – the talc inside the balloons IS bad for you.
  • I don’t think it’s a problem at all for the lungs.
  • Check out the New York Times on-line article “Inhaling Helium Isn’t Child’s Play.”
  • There’s a great Dave Barry column about the effects of inhaling helium.”>
  • Did you see the article in the Washington Post Health supplement on December 24/31, 1996, concerning damage to the lungs from blowing up balloons? Here is the article as reported by Stuart Auerbach:

    A group of doctors from Belfast report in the British Medical Journal that blowing up balloons for Yuletide parties can damage your lungs, causing air bubbles to spread under the skin. They cited the case of a 24-year-old man hospitalized with lung problems after blowing up 20 party balloons in an hour.

    Although he felt no ill effects at the time, he became sick 48 hours later. The doctors said air bubbles could be felt under the skin on his back and buttocks and there was a “crunching sound” when he breathed.

    Stuart Elborn and his medical colleagues found that the air pressure involved in inflating balloons is enough to damage the alveoli, tiny sacs in the lung through which air is absorbed.

    The researchers said they cleared up the problem in 10 days using antibiotics, painkillers and fluids.

  • UPI Science News LONDON, Dec. 19 (UPI) – Doctors say a healthy young man blew up party balloons with such force he partially inflated his own body. In the British Medical Journal on Friday, doctors report that a 24-year-old non-smoker blew up 24 balloons within an hour. He felt fine at the time, but by the next day he noticed a crackling noise just under his skin. Doctors at the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff report the noise came from air that had burst out of the man’s lungs and leaked into his tissues. The doctors could feel a layer of trapped air when they pressed the skin on the man’s back and buttocks. Air pockets in the man’s chest made what Cardiff’s Dr. Andrew Mumford calls “a loud crunching sound” with each heart beat. The air eventually escaped from the man’s body and left no permanent lung damage. Working with consultants from Belfast City Hospital, doctors warn that similar air pockets have developed in tissues of people straining to hold lungfuls of marijuana smoke.
    Copyright 1996 by United Press International. All rights reserved.
  • Jerry Martin sent me an article from Scientific American, March ’97. It mentioned Valsalva, referring to making pressure inside your lungs. That pressure can burst the little alveoli where gas exchange occurs. It can force air out of the lungs into your body where it collects in bubbles under the skin. It is not uncommon among saxophone players and balloon blowers. The bubbles generally diffuse into capillaries with no ill effects, but it’s not really something you want to do. Dr. Elborn says, “Clearly, if you have any pain or discomfort when you’re blowing up a balloon, you should stop. It might be better to use a pump.”

Arms and Wrists

  • What do you do about the soreness in the forearms, wrists, hands, fingers that you get after long hours of twisting? Treat it like any other mild muscle strain for a sport:
    • Rest those muscles. Regular rest breaks throughout the day are also important.
    • Drink lots of water.
    • Get extra sleep if you can.
    • Regular doses of motrin for the pain.
    • Sore, stiff muscles are best helped by working out the pain gently. Practice twice a day for about 1/2 hour or so after the big day. This helps keep your muscles more flexible.
    • Put a hot pack on your arms at night when you get back from the long days.
    • If available, long soothing massages help out greatly.
  • I just read an article about how to prevent sore muscles in which the author stressed the importance of “warm down.” When you’re exercising hard, lots of extra blood and fluids are poring through your muscles to help them with the extra exertion. If you stop suddenly, some of that extra fluid pools in the spaces between your muscle fibers and makes them sore. You’ll usually be hit hardest the 2nd day after the exercise. If you spend five minutes cooling down after hard exercise (which is what a day of twisting in a mall or at a festival amounts to), you will have much happier muscles. Cool down by slowing down. Continue the same type of movements for at least five minutes at a much slower rate. I’d close the line and move out of sight first. Then twist two or three balloons while humming some elevator music. 🙂
  • Being an old phys. ed. major, I say that if you get sore muscles, you should stretch them afterwards. The pain will go away a lot sooner.
  • For sore hands/wrists, treatment is resting the wrist and thumb joints, best done with a simple brace that can be purchased at any medical supply store. It should be worn especially at night and, if possible, whenever doing the repetitive action (though it makes it tough to do balloons). When symptoms flair, a short course of any anti-inflammatory medicine (ibuprofen or similar, not Tylenol) for 5-10 days. If that is ineffective, your doctor can give you a steroid injection into the carpal tunnel (not as bad as it sounds) which can often provide long term relief, and in the worst case, surgery (to open the carpal tunnel) is usually curative.
  • Of course, the best remedy is to prevent getting sore. Regular care seems to be the best answer, as with most things in life:
    • 5 or 10 minutes of stretching exercises before and after the job really can work wonders – you can do this in the car while driving to the gig.
    • Do some stretching exercises before a long day of twisting much like a runner would stretch before a race. Gentle stretching using the same motions you would use to twist. The idea is to get some extra blood going through the muscles and get them ‘warmed up’ a bit before you hit the high speed stuff.
    • Frequent stretching, bending and flexing your fingers and rotating your wrists often helps.
    • I wear wrist and tennis elbow area arm supports regularly. I have done this for quite a long time, and they provide so much support! Available at Walgreens or Longs Drugs, etc. for about $4.00.
  • If you have a problem every time you twist, a physical therapist could recommend some exercises to strengthen your twisting muscles. My work place is highly conscientious of industrial injuries due to carpal tunnel syndrome (repetitive motion), and the symptoms I experience after long twisting periods are very similar. I was given a wrist brace and wrist/arm exercises to do a couple years ago by the city therapist. I told her then about the twisting, and she said that was also a repetitive motion! Actually, a great many things that we do are. I do those same wrist and arm exercises frequently, whether at a computer or twisting and I find it really helps.
  • On my first long gig I very quickly got sore forearms from all the twisting. After some quick analysis, I realized that I was better off minimizing twisting motions just so that I wouldn’t tire out.
  • I used to twist each bubble two complete revolutions and then lock twist two complete revolutions. Now what I do for dogs or any variation (like rabbits, camels, etc.) is to weave the balloon instead of twist. (This also means that I *NEVER* get a kid returning with a string of sausages.) I twist each bubble one half revolution. I then lock twist the ears half a revolution. Then I roll the snout through the ears. This is just as fast as the old way, but now the thing won’t come apart, and I’ve minimized the twisting motion that tires out my forearms. I then continue with the dog and make the front legs with the same number of revolutions, but now I take the remaining balloon and feed it between the legs. This takes about the same time as the old way, but once again it’s less twisting motion. The back legs and tail are done in the manner of the snout and ears. Since I started doing dogs this way, my arms don’t tire or hurt so easily.
  • I have been having a little tingling and numbness in my hands after a long twisting session.
  • I’ve been clowning for eight and a half years full time. At times I’m twisting balloons for up to five hours, with breaks. About two years ago I began to notice the tingling in the fingers and elbows. When I asked a doctor about it he questioned me about my day to day activities. When I told him about twisting balloons, he told me about the golf and tennis movements. He suggested limbering up and stretching exercises before I began, to warm those areas, and to cool them down (ice) after. It seems to help.
  • I have been clowning for almost 20 years and have been tying balloons for most of that. I haven’t had any severe problems with my hands/wrists/arms, although, after a long stint of twisting (defined as over 5 hours at a time), I have been sore. I do stretch before any of my clowning activities and stretch on a daily basis to keep flexible. I exercise my hands and wrists to keep them limber also. My wife is a music therapist and gave me some stretching exercises for my hands that she uses in relation to playing the piano. Seems to help. I would think, though, that carpal tunnel syndrome is a potential hazard since it seems to come from repetitive movements.
  • Yes, CTS can occur from repetitive motion. TAKE BREAKS so that you are not in prolonged repetitive motions. Relaxing and stretching is helpful. Also, take care of these problems right away as they are easier to treat in the early stages before the problems progress. If twisting the balloons is the problem, you might try rolling the balloon along your body or leg to get a different motion and stop the back and forth motion on your wrist.
  • I was twisting the other day, and it had been a while since I twisted that many balloons. A few times, my right hand got a cramp such that I couldn’t move it! I had to awkwardly compensate with my other hand. What’s the best way to prevent it or work around this?
  • Since I don’t twist often, I do get tired and sore hands. One hint is to roll balloons along your body or leg to twist them rather than using repetitive motion. You can stop to do a trick or to juggle. You can use lines about exercising your hands, etc. To entertain the audience while resting my hands, I have routines for stretching balloons, checking colors, etc.
  • I take an anti-inflamatory like Aleve before a gig and overt the problem. Stretch before and after and take breaks until you build up to longer times.
  • Try stretching your hands and arms and even your neck before doing a long job. To stretch your hands and fingers, spread your fingers out and stretch them gently for a count of ten and then relax your hands. Making a fist, rotate your hands at the wrist 15 times in one direction then the other. Rotate again with your fingers open and loose. When working with your fingers try to keep your wrists as straight as possible and not bent (this causes problems in the Carpal Tunnels which could lead to that now infamous syndrome). If problems persist, go see a doctor!
  • I’m a professional guitarist as well as balloonist, and I suffer from cramps and have had tendonitis as well. To avoid future problems, stop as soon as you feel discomfort!
  • I do get those jobs where I’m twisting for hours on end, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have something else in my pockets to take out in time of need. If nothing else, I tell a story while I stretch my hands. If I feel like a break, I may run up and down the line a few times, playing with kids. I move around so everyone sees me. The crowd wants to be entertained. They don’t know I’m resting my hands. They know that I respect them and that I want them to enjoy themselves even while they wait.
  • I urge everyone to find a way to take a break that works for you. It doesn’t take a long break to relieve your hand. If you rest regularly your hand won’t ever get so sore that you need to stop. You may even find, like I have, that some creative way of resting actually improves the way you handle lines.
  • Even if you don’t have a clever way of stopping, remember that your health really is important. If you don’t stop now, you might not have a chance of doing tomorrow’s job. If you have to stop, do it. Talk to the person that hired you. Explain the situation. Be professional about it. You just don’t want to keep going until the pain is so great you can’t stand. Remember, a passed out entertainer isn’t a funny entertainer. At least not for long.
  • For sore arms, you should try changing your technique. The first bubble you start with can be twisted with the opposite hand. If you normally hold with your right and twist out with your left, then you should do the opposite: hold with your left and twist IN with your right. Right there you have slightly shifted the burden. Then twist as normal. After a bit of practice I found that I can be a “switch hitter” by alternating whether I twist from left to right or the reverse. Of course, if both hands now hurt equally, this will not help that much 🙂
  • I not only twist balloons, but I also operate a “Rocky” puppet, decorate cakes, and play guitar and tambourine. Some days it hurts to pick up a glass of water. An exercise that really seems to help: Hold your arm out horizontally in front of you, palm up. With your other hand pull your fingers toward the ground. This stretches out those muscles. Try to do this stretch often, at least every 15-20 minutes. Also, always remember to twist away from you. I had to relearn twisting because I had twisted the wrong way, and it did make a big difference in my endurance.
  • If your hands or arms hurt, see a doctor. Don’t fool around! I had early stages of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Luckily, I saw a doctor right away and my symptoms have been controlled. After you see the doctor, work on changing the way tha you twist. Keep your wrist movements to a minimum. Try not to make the same figure 3 times in a row. If you are using a stand up pump, maybe it is too tall for you. For example, cut down the Pogo to fit you.
  • Try rolling the balloons down your body to avoid the repetitive back and forth motion with your hands and wrists.
  • Yesterday I had surgery on my ulnar nerve in my elbow to relieve the pinching of that nerve that has been causing numbness in my pinky and ring finger and lots of pain in my wrist. Unfortunately, I wasn’t smart enough to see a doctor as soon as my symptoms began, thinking I could wish the problem away. When I finally began seeing doctors about this, I went through medications and braces and finally 2 specialists. After running nerve tests and other tests, (not fun) it was determined that I had lost about 70% of my grip in that hand. Surgery was my only option at this point, and, because I let it go so long without consulting a doc, there are no guarantees that this surgery can give me back what I have lost. My only “guarantee” at this point is that by relieving the pressure on the nerve, it will not get worse.I have been doing balloon deco for about 3 years full time. The doctors are all fairly certain that the tying of balloons is what got me in this condition… that and me not being smart enough to do something sooner.

    Please see a doc ASAP. Right now I am typing this with one hand as the other arm is in a full cast from my shoulder to my fingers. It appears that I am going to be out of commission for about 8 weeks with this, during one of the busiest seasons here in Phoenix. Fortunately, I have a partner (my sister) who is fully capable of handling things.

    I hope that you will find that what you have going on is easy to fix and that my information got you in to see someone at the beginning stages of whatever your problem is.

  • I work a full time job so I can do balloon part time. When somebody there starts having symptoms like yours, the medical department’s first course of treatment is to take aspirin and vitamin B 6. There seems to be a lot of data supporting this in the medical field. Also a brace will possibly help.
  • Any repetitive, consistent action can take its toll on the wrists, including tying balloons. I’ve had trouble with it myself. I’ve developed two slightly different patterns of motion for tying baloons in quantity, and I switch methods about every 12-15 balloons. Some may argue that this would slow me down a bit, but I am in this for the long run. A few seconds delay vs. possible surgery…
  • Advil (ibuprofen) seems to help the swelling if you are already in pain…give yourself time to recover.
  • I have Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. I find that if I warm up my fingers and wrists by doing “lower arm calisthenics,” then I don’t have as much inflammation and pain. Tiger Balm or warming massage oil help after.
  • I have CTS and found that you should talk to a doctor and not settle for home remedies posted here.
  • See a doctor!
  • I, too, have CTS from too many hours on a keyboard. If you are looking for a quick relief, you may want to try a couple things I do as my hands and fingers begin to cramp and ache:
    1. Hold your hands in front of you as you would praying. Turn one hand upside down so that the fingers are pointing to the floor and press lightly at first and then more strongly on the fingers of each hand using the heel of the other hand. Use this to stretch the tendons in the wrists and alternate hand positions to relieve both hands.
    2. Hold one arm in front of you with your fingers pointing to the ceiling (like a traffic officer telling you to stop). Grab your fingers with your other hand and lightly pull back (towards you) on the fingers, again stretching your tendons.

    Hope this helps those in need, but again, I urge you to seek out a doctor. It took two years to figure out that what I had was CTS.

  • An easy way to ice up hurting limbs is to wet a towel, “jelly roll” it with a piece of plastic wrap, and place in the freezer. When frozen, the plastic wrap allows you to unroll the frozen towel and wrap your arm or whatever. Secure with rubber bands. Replace as neccessary with a fresh towel.
  • Stretch while performing – If my hands need a rest, I announce an “evil impulse” and shoot a straight balloon out over the crowd. How much I straighten out the balloon is directly proportional to how cramped my hands are. I may even swat at mosquitoes on kids heads while I do it.
  • Has anyone ever had or heard of anyone having problems with their wrists after tying balloons over a long period of time? Lately my right wrist is bothering me quite a bit. Before I go to a doctor who suggests surgery or something, I thought I’d see if anyone else has had this problem and, if so, what was the outcome?
  • Inflamation? Numbness or tingling in fingertips? Soreness? Lump on back of wrist? Any and all of those symptoms can occur as part of a repetive strain injury (RSI). If it’s just sore, but you don’t have any other symptoms yet, you can probably alleviate the trouble through rest (if possible). Wearing a brace while tying may help some. The brace will just keep your hand in a different position than you might normally have it in. That position will help some people and not others. If you try it and it hurts more, don’t try to get used to the brace. Get rid of it.
  • Surgery is unlikely to be suggested except in the most serious cases. I know of several people that have had surgery for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, and it has rarely had the desired effect. In the case of ganglion cysts, surgery is often necessary to remove them, but, once you get them, they usually come back. Surgery is a last ditch effort. Usually a wrist brace and aspirin are the first things suggested.
  • You should learn to tie balloons with both the right hand and the left hand. Also take frequent breaks or changing the activity you’re doing with your hands for a bit. For a long time, I used to carry a small stiff putty with me. It has a similar consistency to silly putty, but it’s made to exercise your fingers. Even when twisting balloons in front of an audience all day, I sometimes reach into a pocket and take out something like the putty to play with for a minute while I joke around with the audience. Doing something different for short intervals helps a lot.
  • Seeing a doctor certainly isn’t a bad thing to do, but chances are that by the time a doctor can identify a type of RSI, you’ve done serious damage. An occupational therapist would be able to offer suggestions for excercises that might help you. Regardless of whether you decide to see a doctor, and even if you don’t have any wrist pain yet, it’s best to be prepared for it now and do whatever you can to relieve your hands. Working with balloons is very repetitive and you can hurt yourself if you aren’t careful. If you are careful and take the necessary breaks, you’ll probably never run into difficulties. (All athletes stretch before doing anything strenuous, and they try to keep their bodies balanced. Everyone should follow their lead.)
  • You can get more information about RSI at
  • That actually focuses on typing injuries, but the idea is the same. There are links to other places from there also that might help.
  • Obligatory disclaimer: I am not a medical professional and don’t suggest anyone follow just my advice for handling this. I’m speaking from my own experiences. What worked for me may be totally wrong for you.

Hands and fingers

  • The only problem I’ve had with ballooning (I use a pump) is I sometimes get blisters on my fingers from tying the knot. T. Myers told me to let more air out of the end of the balloon for a longer section to tie, and that has helped a lot.
  • Other problems I can think of are the old carpel tunnel thing that happens when I over twist myself. Like when I made 37 balloon baskets for a Valentine’s Day delivery one year. Ouch! I have never had to have surgery – I know that when I do a lot of twisting – and I mean a lot!!! – I have to wear the wrist bands when I’m not working.
  • I get repetitive stress inflammations from using a hand pump.
  • To help those red and swollen fingers, you can put on some sport tape around the first digits of your primary fingers. Wrap them a few times with this cloth tape for protection. It always helps me greatly when I have long gigs. They look like band aids, but most people don’t say anything. I call it balloon-itis if they do. The sport tape actually helps on the wear and tear of the cuticles. Use the Johnson and Johnson brand.
  • For sore fingers, I found one thing that made a huge difference. I don’t know why it took me so long to figure it out. Leave more slack while tying the knot. I was stretching a tiny portion of balloon around my fingers to make the knot. My fingers got sore really quickly. If I tie a looser knot, and use more balloon while doing it, my fingers NEVER hurt. You can always roll the knot down towards the nozzle, if needed. Dry hands and rough fingernails
  • Dry hands and nails are a problem for balloon pros. Not only can you pop balloons, but finger tips as well as nails can split which is very painful! The powder that keeps the balloons from sticking also contributes to drying out your hands. Here is a long list of suggestions and home remedies to combat this problem:
    • Rub moisturizer into the cuticle and nail bed every night before sleep.
    • File nails regularly and keep a nail file close by when twisting to remedy any edges and tops of nails that may peel. Use the white side for top of nail, it is finer than the dark side.
    • Try a clear matte (no shine,sometimes called a base coat) nail polish.
    • Avon’s Liquid Silk Wrap has no shine and helps to keep nails from peeling.
    • Go to a farm supply store and buy a product called Hoof Saver, made by Farnam Companies, Inc. It comes in a good size container about 2 lbs. so it will last you a lifetime. This is a product designed for horse hooves. Now wait, I’m not saying you are a horse. I’m saying that this will work if you follow the directions. Give it a try. I’m sure you will be pleased with the results.
    • Get acrylic nails. I go every two weeks for a “fill”, and keep them fairly short. They are not sharp like regular nails, they’re very tough, and you can even curl ribbons with them!
    • Eat Knox gelatin or Jell-O. The massive amounts of protein this stuff contains helps to strengthen your nails (and your hair as well).
    • Udder balm works very well as a conditioner. It is available at farm and vet supply stores.
    • Hydrate yourself and your hands at night. Drink lots of water. Wet your hands and leave them a bit damp – do not dry them completely. Then rub olive oil all over your hands and nails and rub it in really well. The oil seals the water into your skin and then moisturizes the skin and nail. Finally, put cotton gloves on your hands and wear them to bed.
    • Wash the powder residue from the balloons off your hands. If you don’t have access to water while you are working, bring baby wipes – the lanolin in them helps too!
    • In an emergency, if a finger splits, I keep a supply of “finger cots” available. I clean the cut, then rub vitamin E (break a capsule open; it’s cheaper than the bottled kind) into the cut, then cover it with the cot and keep it oiled with the E and covered day and night until it is healed. (Finger cots are little rubber covers that look like tiny condoms and are available from your pharmacist. Just ask him – he’ll know what it is.)

Latex Allergies

  • “Itchy palms” – I was having that problem and scratching my hands to pieces. They were driving me nuts. I attended a balloon convention (the round kind) in Las Vegas in 94 and happened to be sitting with a bunch of gals, and I asked them if they ever had the problem. A “Pro” (one of the teachers) – popped her head around and said – you are allergic to Latex – wash your hands more often when you are working with balloons. I do, and I don’t have the problem anymore. I would suggest that you use something before twisting. Like Avon’s silicone glove. It puts a protective coating over your hands. Washing may aggravate the problem if you do it a lot. My hands get dry and itchy (I think it’s from the powder in the balloons), and I find a hand lotion helps afterwards. If it’s a true allergy to latex it could get worse with more exposure. That’s why you want to use something before hand. You want to keep from sensitizing yourself. Latex allergy is potentially a serious problem. Surgeons have had to quit due to symptoms from glove allergies appearing as everything from itching hands to trouble breathing. Now there are several makers of latex-free surgical gloves to avoid this problem. None of the materials I’ve seen lend themselves to ballooning though.
  • I’ve experienced lots and lots of itchies when working with balloons. My hands dry out and really start to itch. I remedy this by washing them several times per night and then applying hand lotion after I get home….BUT I’ve come to the conclusion that it is not caused by the latex. I think it’s caused by a passive allergy to the powder…i.e. you get a bag of Sapphire 260’s (Don’t ask me why, it’s always sapphire) that have an incredible amount of powder on them and by the time you’re done loading-up, you’ve got yourself a first rate case of the dry-itchies…. So, I just keep clean and I don’t have that problem.
  • Latex allergy is a very real condition. Simple contact with latex (a balloon, latex examining glove, etc.) can cause local swelling in mild cases, and systemic anaphlaxis in extremes. Don’t question if someone tells you they are allergic.
  • I’m going to trust that people who are allergic to latex know that they are and will tell me. And then I’m going to worry about the way my hands itch when I’ve got balloon dust all over them. Right now, I just wash them often and apply lotion afterwards, and that seems to help.
  • I’ve had one adult tell me that they were allergic to latex, so believe it when you hear it. A treatment described in an article involved soaking 20 different brands of latex gloves in water and then preparing an extremely low dose shot in order to build-up a tolerance to latex (kind-of like allergy shots to build up a tolerance to bees, etc.), but they emphasize that this method is highly experimental.
  • I have been working with balloons full time since early 1980 and I use at least a case of 260’s per month doing figures for the public and in decorating. In addition, I use a gross of balloons a day just playing with them. In all of that time I have never had a customer complain about latex allergies, and, to the best of my recollection, have never had the subject mentioned in conjunction with a performance, display, twisting contract, or decorating job. There are obviously numerous cases as evidenced by the many comments on the list, but personally, I have never encountered one. I’m sure that as interest grows, and as more cases are documented, the balloon manufacturers will become involved and more effort will be taken to keep us informed. I intend to learn all I can about it, but, at the present time, I plan to continue with business as usual. Marvin
  • I have noticed a difference in the allergy-producing qualities of balloons from brand to brand. I do not have a problem with allergies, but my wife is allergic to many things. The only brand she can use is Qualatex. Prestige and Gala make her itch (among other annoying symptoms). She has never twisted Tilly or Unique brand balloons. I even get a slight reaction while sorting through my Gala balloons. A fairly agreed upon downside of these balloons is their strong smell which makes my sinuses tingle, although only when I am pulling them out of the bags and setting them up in my apron. I have never had a problem on the job with them. If you are having problems, you may want to switch brands and see if it helps. I think a good test would be to stick your nose in or in close proximity to an open gross of the brand in question and take a nice whiff! If your nose tingles or if you fall over and asphyxiate until the life drains from your body, then you’re probably allergic. Remember I am not a doctor, so consult one; don’t take my advice.
  • Today I went to the hospital for knee surgery and I saw that the “SensiCare” exam gloves used there were labeled as “non-latex” and are made in Canada. Their primary material is PVC but no mention of what else was used in their manufacture. I asked 2 nurses and my doctor about them and all 3 said they disliked the non-latex gloves for various reasons. They also told me that the hospital has had 2 cases of anaphylactic shock as a result of latex gloves being used during surgery. Now the hospital is “latex free,” and they have a policy against latex balloons. Foil balloons are OK. However, they did use a latex tourniquet on me while putting in the IV but pulled my sleeve down enough to put the tourniquet over the sleeve rather than on my skin. I was given a couple of samples of the synthetic gloves to “examine” and I want to share my observations:
    • They smell nasty. More like something burnt than like the gases given off by PVC.
    • They don’t have much stretch to them. Making them a bit odd to put on.
    • They only inflate to about 9″ before breaking (making them useless for helium bouquets and arches).
  • For info on latex allergies, send a business size (#10) self-addressed stamped envelope (S.A.S.E.) to:ELASTIC
    P.O. Box 2228
    West Chester, PA 19380

    You will get info on Latex Allergy News (you can subscribe), a flyer from the American college of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology with Q & A on latex allergy, and information on ELASTIC (Education for Latex Allergy Support Team & Information Coalition Inc.)

    The information includes several URLs:
  • Latex allergies are fairly common in the general population. There is some worry among pollution watchers and public health types about the incidence of it, because there’s a fair amount of latex about, especially in urban environments. Car tires generate a fair amount of latex dust.
  • You might try taking an antihistamine (like Claritin or Chlortrimeton) before twisting, and see if that helps. An anti-inflamatory (advil or aspirin) also might be worth trying.
  • There are several sites online where you can get latex allergy info. Latex Allergy Links is the most comprehensive and is most often recommended on the list for parents of children with spina bifida.The ALERT support group site is good also. You can order a School Education Packet from them. Look under Products.

    Other info can be found through the Latex Allergy Information Service (203)482-6869; E.L.A.S.T.I.C. (610)436-4801; A.L.E.R.T. (414)677-9707; G.L.A.S.S. (313)351-9788; and FDA Latex Allergy Hotline (301)594-3060.

  • No latex is allowed in the children’s wards of most hospitals. Some will let you decorate a waiting room or the “Day room,” but none of the patient’s rooms. And no Balloons at all in ICU’S. Always call first. I received an order to deliver MYLAR balloons and a plush animal to Pediatric ICU….they will NOT accept latex, but have absolutely no problem with MYLAR and encourage them with plush animals for the children……check with your individual hospitals to get their position.
  • I just got back from my allergist’s office and saw posted on the board in the office:

    As of June 1st,1997 No LATEX BALLOONS at 3 Main Area Hospitals

    “We want to provide the safest possible environment for patients and staff. Latex balloons are the leading cause of pediatric choking deaths in the U.S. An increasing number of patients and staff have developed an allergy to latex. Symptoms of latex allergy may be mild or severe and range from hives and swelling to respiratory failure. Mylar/Foil balloons will only be accepted.”

  • I just got a call this morning from a friend of mine that is currently being tested for a latex allergy. The dermatologist thought it looked like a reaction to latex and has him seeing an allergist now. In his case, the first place he notices the problem is his mouth. Soon after that he starts seeing a rash all over his body. He’s been working with balloons for years and only recently started having problems. So in his case, it’s unlikely that he’s doing something wrong.
  • There have been several good articles in the nursing and EMS magazines in 1996. This allergy became personal to me at that time as my wife started coming back from duty at the rescue squad (both she and I are EMTs) and developed a rash under her rings and watch band. Her allergy has gotten progressively worse since then and she now cannot have any contact with latex. She wears vinyl gloves, and her regular dentist and doctor have taken to keeping non latex equipment around for her visit. I have to keep all of my balloon supplies in the garage and in the freezer. Even so, she has gotten so that she can sense them if she rides in my car and I have my balloon bag in with us. Her reactions are much like an allergy to pollen. She itches, gets hives, and starts having burning in her throat and tightness in her chest. We are now very careful to carry Benadryl and Epinephrine with us wherever we go, much like people who are allergic to bee stings. It has put a damper on some of the ballooning because I cannot practice in the house, and she used to enjoy the balloons and being around them.
  • The Cincinnati Enquirer had a January 1996 article about latex allergies. It seems this is a growing problem that affects a lot of people. It takes the form of rashes, sores and asthma. It’s become so common that hospitals are designing latex-free operating and recovery rooms. They mentioned a guy by the name of Ben(?) Wiley, who used to be a balloon sculpting magician who can no longer get anywhere near balloons. Anyone else ever hear of this problem? It was on the front page of the Metro section. If you search the web for “Cincinnati Enquirer” and check out Thursday’s metro section, you can read what it said for yourself.
  • Anybody see 20/20 on ABC last Friday night? They had a segment about Latex Allergies. Seems to have focused on hospital situations mostly. Latex gloves and such…. It appears that most doctors feel that this is a “real” thing. However some surgeons say they don’t like to use anything but latex gloves ’cause they don’t get the same sensations through other types.Only few blurbs about balloons…they had one lady who said she got a rash around her mouth after blowing up a balloon. Then they showed a package of balloons when they were showing common products made with latex.

    Over all, it didn’t seem to point out that balloons were a major contributor to latex allergy cases but that latex gloves were.

  • I too saw the story on 20/20. However, they seemed to really concentrate on the inside powder as the main culprit, not the latex itself. Part of the problem is the latex that leeches into the powder which becomes airborne when the glove is removed, but mostly, it was the nature of the powder itself from companies who took cheap shortcuts in manufacturing.
  • I have no idea if Pioneer uses the ‘cheaper’ powders, but I have a few suspicions as to how this may relate to the glove situation.
  • I believe that the balloon powder would become airborne during a pop. However, I assume that there would be more powder in latex gloves than in latex balloons because you need excess powder in the gloves in order to slip the gloves on or off. The overall amount of dust should be quite different in the two cases.
  • The powder is accumulative in the environment in which it is released (for a period of time). The reason the doctors and nurses are more greatly affected is because they are always in the OR or ER when the gloves are removed. This allows for a continual build up of the dust. Ballooners on the other hand RARELY do their thing in the same spot day after day, with a multitude of other twisters and shifts working around them.
  • The problem is relatively a new one.. it really didn’t start to manifest its self until AFTER it became mandatory (or highly suggested) that rubber gloves be used whenever contact with body fluids is possible. Since then, the use of gloves (on and off again, over and over) has greatly increased. If twisting was all that dangerous, I would imagine we would have seen this among clowns and the like for a long time now. Then again, I think most clowns usually resort to pumps (to protect makeup if nothing else), so perhaps we’ve just been screened from the potential harm.
  • I’m not trying to discount the potential danger… only put it into perspective.. I really doubt our gifts to the public are any kind of a threat.. to ourselves??? Well, if I were the person mentioned earlier who gets a rash around her mouth after inflating… I would definitely check into it…. in fact, I have a simular problem over my entire body from time to time that has left my doctors puzzled, but lately I’ve noticed it does seem to come on after doing a balloon gig. I’m back to mostly doing magic now, so its easier to look at twisting as a seperate potential cause. Before I was constantly twisting, and almost always had a form of this on my knees or elbows.. We’ll see what happens after this weekend. (shudder)
  • As I understand it the incidence of reactions to latex is increasing. The majority of these cases reported are in the health care industry where latex gloves are the primary source of contact for sensitive individuals. The dermatitis and the occasionally life threatening anaphylactic shock reaction are very real threats to those sensitized to the proteins found in natural latex. The theory is that the powder that is put into the gloves to make them easier to get on and off absorbs the proteins from the latex. The constant contact with this now contaminated powder sets off an allergic reaction. The reaction is further worsened by the sweat and friction inside the gloves. The other route of exposure to those sensitized to the allergens in the latex is when the powder becomes airborne and is inhaled. A potentially life threatening reaction may then occur as the airways close in response to the offending proteins. Massive amounts of histamine are released and the body responds by releasing fluid into the tissues causing hives or swelling of the airways, sometimes to the point of ashyxiation. Some recent studies have shown the increased allergic responses in premature infants exposed to a variety of latex products during treatment. This population group has a very sensitive immune system and is a good group to study in respect to these types of responses. The study concluded that the latex was responsible for allergic reactions to not only latex but for an increased response to other materials as well.
  • I have been closely following the latex allergy crisis because I work for a paint company. We make latex paint. The latex in paint is synthetic. Therefore, it does not have the allergenic potential that natural latex posseses. This is frequently confused by consumers, and I answer questions almost daily in relation to this topic. I also have a BS in biology and an MS in Immunoparasitology, so I have a personal interest in the subject.
  • I don’t doubt that latex manufacturers show little or no allergic reaction. They don’t wear the latex on a daily basis like the health care profession. After several years of wearing latex and inhaling the powder in gloves and other latex products, an individual becomes more susceptible to the allergenic properties of the proteins in the natural latex.
  • I understand the very real effects of latex induced allergic repsonses, but I have also read of the flood of law suits in regards to the “life threatening” responses because someone gets a case of dermatitis. Clearly this has become another way for some people to make “easy” money and for the more unscrupulous legal professionals to increase their wages.
  • I will try and provide alternatives to latex to consumers who feel that the latex is a threat, but I will also educate them whenever possible about the very small potential of an allergic reaction occuring.
  • The Imperial Potentate of the Shrine has made a ruling that no balloons should be given to the general public due to the possibility of choking and allergic reactions. The clowns on my email list are very distressed and we are in the process of appealing this. Hopefully this ruling can be changed in some way; Shriner clowns raise nearly $75,000 in their annual events and much of that is earned through balloons at public functions.
  • From the San Diego Union Tribune, Monday April 15, 1996, Pages A-1 and A-9Debilitating, Sometimes Deadly Latex Reactions Pose Medical Peril

    By SUSAN DUERKSEN, Staff Writer

    Augustine Carrillo is not expected ever to talk, possibly not to walk, certainly never to work. The 1-year-old is profoundly brain-damaged, his parents say, because of a rubber-tipped catheter.

    His story is among the most horrific consequences to date of a mysterious epidemic of severe allergy to latex rubber. The unusually menacing allergy has sprung up within the past decade and has quickly become a major concern for health-care workers.

    Ironically, the often life-threatening sensitivity to latex apparently arose from a sudden surge in the use of latex gloves to protect doctors, nurses, dentists and others from another hazard, the AIDS virus.

    Besides more people having more contact with latex, many researchers–and lawyers representing the victims–believe gloves became more allergenic because manufacturers cut corners to produce more gloves faster.

    Augustine’s mother, Mildred Carrillo, was an intensive care nurse at San Diego’s Mercy Hospital before his birth there in January I995. She had suffered rashes and wheezing on the job for five years, she said, and had finally concluded she was allergic to latex.

    During her labor, all the nurses and doctors knew of her allergy and knew they should not use latex equipment. But one nurse accidentally used a latex catheter to drain her bladder, telling Carrillo it was not latex.

    Carrillo immediately went into anaphylactic shock–marked by difficulty breathing and feeble blood pressure. For about 20 minutes, she struggled to breathe while the nurses tried to give her oxygen, said her husband Richard.

    “I couldn’t get air,” Mildred Carrillo said. “I was suffocating.”

    Market Demands Spread the Problem, Some Say

    After she was stabilized with shots of three drugs, her son was born by emergency Cesarean section. According to a lawsuit the Carrillos have filed against Mercy, his brain was severely damaged by oxygen deprivation and the drugs necessary to save his mother.

    The Carrillos are suing for the lifelong costs of care for the vacant-eyed boy they call Auggie, for an amount not yet determined.

    Patting her son’s chest as he arched into one of his frequent seizures, the 32-year-old San Diego woman said doctors are unsure the boy ever will develop basic skills. He now is fed through a tube into his stomach because he cannot swallow adequately.

    Mildred Carrillo’s severe reaction to the inadvertent use of a latex catheter during the birth is not disputed, but Mercy has not agreed that her shock caused the brain damage, said Cary Miller, attorney for the hospital.

    Nonetheless, Mercy embarked a year ago, just after Auggie’s birth, on an aggressive effort to identify and protect latex-allergic employees and patients and to buy latex-free products where possible. Some other local hospitals are following Mercy’s lead, but at many it is not a high priority.

    The Word Spreads

    “The word is just getting out about latex allergy now,” said Mary-Michael Brown, a nurse specialist who headed Mercy’s latex task force. “The medical community is really just beginning to believe it and act on it.”

    The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a medical alert five years ago, in March I991, warning all health-care professionals to identify latex-sensitive patients and be prepared for severe allergic reactions.

    The alert followed reports of 15 deaths among patients who went into shock while having barium enemas with rubber-tipped catheters.

    I suspect there are multiple other deaths out there that we don’t know about,” because they are listed as having other causes, said Dr. B. Lauren Charous, a Wisconsin allergist and chairman of the American College of Allergy Asthma and Immunology’s Latex Hypersensitivity Committee.

    “We have health care workers who can’t work.” Charous said. “We have people who are disabled, I’m very worried because I’m seeing more patients.”

    The few studies that have been done estimate that latex allergy affects from 5 to 20 percent of all health-care personnel who wear gloves much of the workday, including nurses, laboratory technicians, dentists and others.

    An even more profoundly affected group–up to 65 percent latex allergic–are children with spina bifida. Those children commonly have multiple surgeries and catheterizations at very young ages, involving direct contact of batex with the bloodstream.

    The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone undergoing surgery or dental procedures, as well as anyone being hired for a health-care job, should be asked if they are allergic to latex.

    A Protein Problem

    Latex is a natural product from rubber trees and contains many proteins that can provoke allergic reaction. It bas been prevalent in home as well as medical products for decades. Rubber bands, shoes, elastic, pacifiers, toys, balloons, bandages, band grips on rackets and bicycles, erasers, tires, condoms, diaphragms and many other items contain latex.

    But some latex products are more hazardous than others, and an allergy generally develops after extensive contact. Latex gloves usually are dusted with cornstarch, which can bind to the proteins, pull them off the latex and rub them into skin. Or the powder can carry latex proteins into the air, where they can be inhaled.

    Some of the same proteins are found in certain foods–primarily bananas, avocados, kiwis and chestnuts–which often cause reactions in people with latex allergy.

    The amounts of the problem proteins vary drastically between brands of gloves, said Dr. John Yunginger, an allergist at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. Until recently there were no good ways to measure the protein levels, he said.

    The demand for latex gloves– which are stronger and allow more touch sensitivity than vinyl or the alternatives — skyrocketed in 1987, after the CDC recommended that all health-care workers protect themselves from all patients’ blood fluids to prevent transmission of the human immunodeficiency virus. To meet the demand, new manufacturers jumped into the market “who didn’t know what they were doing,” Said Wava Truscott, vice president of Safeskin Corp., a San Diego- based glove maker. At the same time, she said, efforts to clean up industrial discharges and boost the production at Southeast Asian rubber tree plantations inadvertently increased the amount of proteins on glove surfaces.

    But Charous said many manufacturers sped up production without regard to the consequences. “One explanation would be that because of economic demands a different kind of rubber was produced that had more allergens,” he said. “I think they did get sloppy.”

    Allergy Prevention

    Prodded again by market demands, some glove-makers now are adding production steps to leach allergenic proteins from latex, Truscott said.

    The FDA has encouraged manufacturers to make and market low-allergen gloves, but has not yet required any changes. A proposed regulation requiring simply that any product containing latex be so labeled has been in the works for three or four years.

    Mel Stratmeyer, chief of the health sciences branch in the FDA office of science and technology said the regulation has been delayed by the office’s workload and he cannot estimate when it might be implemented.

    “I would say it has a high priority at this time,” Stratmeyer said. “I really have no control over when it gets through.”

    In the Carrillos’ case, the catheter package was clearly labeled as containing latex, said R. Christian Hulburt, the family’s attorney.

    Requiring labeling should have been done long ago and won’t be enough, Charous said. His national committee has recommended that the FDA set maximum levels of the allergenic proteins in latex products, but Stratmeyer said it is faster to encourage voluntary cooperation by manufacturers.

    Besides gloves and catheters, many other medical supplies contain latex, including intravenous tubing, rubber stoppers or syringes and tourniquets. Non-Latex alternatives are become more available, sometimes at lower cost, and some nurses say new powder-free latex gloves don’t cause reactions.

    For many heath-care workers, Latex allergy begins with rashes and itching on the hands and progresses to hives, then asthma, watering eyes and sneezing.

    Finally, some people become so sensitized that even breathing the air where someone else has taken off latex gloves can cause the swollen airway and lowered blood pressure of anaphylactic shock, a reaction rarely seen in other allergies.

    ‘Couldn’t Breathe. . . Think’

    Kirsten Clark, of Point Loma, knows the panic of that feeling too well. After 10 years as a nurse, she risks her life entering a doctor’s office or hospital. When she takes her 4-year-old daughter to the doctor, she waits in the parking lot.

    “I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t think, I couldn’t see,” Clark, 37, said of her first episode of anaphylactic shock a year ago, “You only have to do that once to be terrified. There’s never been an allergy like this.”

    Clark left her job at Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla last year. She said she never heard of the FDA’s 1991 alert until this year.

    Lt. Harold Henderson, a Navy emergency nurse for eight years, also can no longer work in his profession. After several episodes of shock, Henderson said he carries a syringe of epinephrine, an adrenaline shot that counteracts the symptoms, wherever he goes.

    I have to watch, for the rest of my life, every single thing I come in contact with,” said Henderson, 38, of Rancho Penasquitos. He said he knows of other military nurses who are “suffering in silence,” taking allergy medication and continuing to work rather than give up their careers.

    At the San Diego Naval Medical Center, where Henderson worked, vinyl gloves are available for those who want them and a task force is looking into what else should be done, said Capt. Fang Lin, head of the hospital’s allergy clinic.

    In the Scripps Health system, a task force was formed last month and is aiming to make the system’s six hospitals “latex-safe” within the next few months, said assistant administrator Paula Smith. “We will be substituting latex- free products wherever we can,” she said.

    In the six hospitals of the Sharp Health Care system, non- latex gloves are available but the issue is otherwise “a low priority right now,” saidspokeswoman Stephanie Casenza. Dr. Ronald Simon, at Scripps Clinic in La Jolla, said he is about to begin experimenting with a treatment to desensitize people to latex. He plans to inject “incredibly small doses” of latex proteins into people who are highly allergic, just as bee venom injections lessen bee sting allergies.

    The researchers took six brands of gloves, soaked them in salt water to extract the proteins and then mixed them.

    Simon said he is prepared for the risk of severe reactions to the shots, but already had the 12 volunteers he needs initially.

  • Spina Bifida. I have found one study in which normal, patients with spinal cord injury (SCI), people with history of stroke (CVA), and people with spina bifida (SB) were compared for history and immunologic findings suggestive of latex allergy. The results are interesting: Responses to questionnaires indicated that neither the patients with SCI nor the patients with CVA had histories suggestive of latex hypersensitivity. In contrast, 72% of the SB population had histories of clinical latex allergy. Comparisons of latex contact among the SB, SCI, CVA, and control groups revealed that the SB and SCI groups had similar latex exposure, whereas the other groups had less exposure. Both the SB and SCI groups had an average of two surgical procedures per year, which was greater than the average for the other groups. Comparisons of IgE latex antibody titers (i.e. how much antibody that reacts with latex and can therefore cause an allergic reaction [DrB]) among the groups indicated that only the SB group had significant levels. The percentages of positive latex IgE antibody detection were 72% for SB, 4% for SCI, 0% for CVA, and 0% for control groups.CONCLUSIONS: The results suggest that the SB population is unique in demonstrating IgE responses to latex contact, which may be due to increased latex exposure or altered neuroimmunologic interactions.
  • There was a convention in Dallas 4 or 5 years ago for people with spina bifida. The mother of one of the kids told me that a high percentage of spina bifida patients are allergic to latex and could have an anaphylactic reaction from just breathing the powder from the balloons! I have since talked to a few others who have heard about this.
  • The American Journal of Nursing published an in-depth article about Latex Allergy in their most recent issue. You can read it now in their article entitled, The Latex Threat.
  • Another link that talks about latex and latex allergies is the “Guideline for Latex Allergic Patients.”


  • I was twisting at a party last night and there was a puppy dog (yes, a real one… 🙂 who kept trying to get into the broken balloon bits (you know… the “clown droppings”). Other than pets biting the sculptures, has anyone ever had a problem with balloons and pets?
  • I met a woman who had a cute cocker spaniel that was running all over town eating the colorful balloon odds and ends….the owner was concerned because she kept finding these long multi-colored strands in her dog’s stool. From a vet we learned that cats in particular must be kept from swallowing string (and by extension, one would think that dogs and latex, likewise) because it can literally get raveled up in their intestines and create “KNOTS” which in turn can both prevent proper elimination and cause death!!! Have never seen it documented about balloons, but more than once have heard and read about the dangers of cats and string. My advice is: drop your bits and pieces in a pocket if you use an apron, or a bag, or wastebasket on the ground!!!
  • Here’s a documented case of cat intestinal winding: my cat ate a rubber band and her surgery was $600 (Tweedledee survived!). I keep my balloons well out of her reach!
  • Also be aware that animals can also choke on balloons.
  • What does research say about animals eating balloons? Yes, balloons have been found in the stomachs of sea mammals after they have died. There also has been research with living sea mammals which demonstrates that when they eat balloons, the balloons pass naturally through the digestive track. We know of no cases where it has been demonstrated that birds ingest balloons. However, we are aware of cases where a dead bird has been entangled in the cord tied to a balloon.
  • I don’t do balloons around ducks. Ducks think they’re delicious, until they choke on them or the balloons bind up in their intestines. Balloons are no better or worse for the environment than most common things I can think of, and Latex is biodegradable. Unfortunately, like so many of the things we litter the planet with, (plastic bags are even worse) many of the little critters, and the big ones too, see some of this trash as food, especially the birds and sea critters. Turtles especially eat balloons and plastic bags and then die from a gunked up digestive system. Now, balloons aren’t bad in themselves, if you can look past the energy expended in their production and the rape of rain forest to create rubber plantations… If you do care about the environment, take a moment to make sure the balloon animals you make aren’t turning into litter, and, if you are that sort, comment on the same to the little ones, and their parents. You could, actually end up doing our mother earth some good.
  • There are birds that will eat balloons. I have a ring neck dove. She will peck at the floor, ingesting crumbs, grit, etc…. Everyonce in a while, she will pick up a stray shard of balloon. I know our dove passes these bits of grit and balloon from cage cleaning experience. As to large pieces of balloons, my dove may pick up an uninflated balloon but has never attempted to put something bigger than 1/2″ into its mouth. In other words, if its too big to fit down their throats, and they cannot break it up with their beak, they will leave it alone.
  • While the balloon launch sounds like a really cool idea there are some more serious consequences to consider here. Those helium filled balloons eventually fall to earth and could be found by animals. The balloons (or balloon pieces) look like delicious food and the animals scarf them right down. Terrible things happen when an animal tries to digest latex. The animal usually dies a very painful and torturous death.
  • Those of you who get Balloon Images magazine know about the Balloon Council, and the educational materials that they have regarding latex balloons. Somebody said that animals die a horrible death from eating latex balloons, and I wanted to comment on that. The studies that have been done regarding consumption of latex balloons by animals show that most animals easily pass latex balloons, undigested, through their intestines. The harm that is posed from balloon releases is when an animal eats a balloon that has a string on it, especially if it is a non-natural fiber string. The strings get caught in the intestines, and can cause serious hemorrhages. Therefore, it is suggested that, if you do a balloon release, please do not tie the balloon to a string. Instead, tie it to a piece of crepe paper, which is easier to digest if an animal happens to eat it. I remember the postcard balloon release from when I was a kid, and it was fun, but it’s just not environmentally sensitive. Also, if the balloons have a postcard attached, they don’t get high enough in the air to pop (which is what usually happens to them), and the chances increase of a whole balloon getting back to earth.
  • The Balloon Council’s brochure claims that there has never been any evidence of sea animals or birds dying from balloons.
  • Sea Turtles

    Sea Turtles are the most likely animal to ingest balloons since their diet consists mainly of jelly fish. This is according to an unpublished report (1989) Studies on the Ingestion of Plastic and Latex by Sea Turtles – Peter Lutz, Division of Biology and Living Resources, University of Miami, Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science.

    Lutz fed small pieces (approximately one centimeter square) of latex balloon to sea turtles. He found that turtles “…will actively eat pieces of colored balloons but…they ignored colorless plastic.” He reported that “the sojourn of the ingested material in the gut ranged from a few days to two months! Moreover, some of the turtles passed multiple pieces at different times…Since the gut clearance time for food is in the order of days it appears that some of the pieces are getting held up somewhere in the gut.”

    Lutz also conducted another study, where he fed 5-7 10cm x 10cm sheets of plastic to adult turtles and 1 10cm x 10cm sheet (about the size of 2 deflated 16″ balloons cut open and laid flat) to juvenile turtles. He writes “No clear evidence of ill effects from plastic ingestion…in this set of experiments though it should be noted that the turtles were only allowed to consume small amounts of plastic.”

    But how many intact balloons can a sea turtle find? According to Don Burchette’s “A Study Of The Effect Of Balloon Releases On The Environment”…the percentage of balloons returned from “tagged” balloon releases is usually well under 5%. “Assuming that a full 10% of the balloons come down without bursting for a typical release of 500 balloons, it is conservatively calculated that the density would be no greater than one balloon in over 15 square miles.”

Miscelleanous Health Problems

  • I thought I’d take a moment and caution y’all against twisting in the sun without proper protection. I got a healthy sun burn this weekend in a surprisingly short time. Don’t be like me (ouch!). Protect yourselves!!!! JJ (Yes… I look like a Lobster) The DJ

Use of Balloons in Surgical Procedures

Balloon angioplasty
Information needed.
Uterine balloon therapy
(Champaign-Urbana News Gazette, Thurs Jan 25, 1996, picked up from Associated Press Writer Richard Cole, San Francisco)

Uterine balloon therapy: an in-office procedure currently undergoing testing on 250 women in 13 US hospitals, to be used as an alternative to hysterectomies. Has already been performed on over 300 women in other countries, and has been approved in some European countries.

“Uterine balloon therapy uses a catheter and balloon to heat the inside of the uterus and destroy its lining….” “…as with hysterectomies and any procedure in which the uterine lining is removed or destroyed, uterine balloon therapy results in sterility.”

“…test results so far show 25% to 30% of women stop menstrual bleeding altogether, and 50% or more have reduced flow” Dr. David Granger, director of the Center for Reproductive Medicine, Univ. of Kansas-Wichita.

Uterine balloon therapy: Done with local anesthetic, takes under 9 minutes, patient can leave within an hour and go back to work the following day, costs $10 to $7,000, less than half the cost of hysterectomy and required follow-up care. Dr. Robert London, Kaiser Permanente)

General anesthetic, several days of hospitalization, four to six weeks of recovery, add high risk of infections, and damage to bladder and bowels. (Dr. Robert London, Kaiser Permanente)

Balloon-Related Diseases (Jokes)

  • Inflatamus Latexis ContagiousumThis is a common childhood illness that is highly contagious. While never really eradicated from the system it can become dormant for extended periods of time. This “remission” can be long lasting. Occasionally, however, it relapses during adulthood. In this case, the disease is often in a much more severe form than the initial infection. Such relapsed adults then become the carriers and have frequently been identified as a primary source for new infections in both children and adults.

    Symptoms (relapsed adults): While normal in appearance (there are numerous exceptions) they have a tendency to dress in unusual clothing (often in some way incorporating balloons). They are driven to always have rapid access to balloons and almost always have balloons either on their person or within immediate reach. Unpredictably, though often in crowded areas, victims enter into an almost frenzied seizure-like activity in which latex balloons are inflated, mangled, knotted, torn, tied and popped. This pitiful behavior often evokes such sympathy that others, in the area, feel prompted to give money to the sufferer, in hopes that they will seek professional attention for the disorder. Some chronic victims reach out to others in the form of books and video tapes, of this seizure like activity, in hopes that the wide distribution of such material might lead to an earlier diagnosis in others. There are victim support groups via the Internet (search on balloons).

  • Related Illnesses
    • suckus helium squickis voicem: a short lived but interesting malady often confused with Imitatus Mickey Mousum.
    • sneakupunum popus balloonus: a brief but often violent condition that can have a tragic and unexpected outcome.
      Dr (frequently wrong but never in doubt) Bruce

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