Never Give Balloons to Kids Under Three

I don’t know about you, but I never give balloons to kids under the age of three.

I’ve seen lots of discussions on balloon forums about this, and many people say they have never seen a report of a kid choking on balloons. The most recent death that I’m aware of, was last year, in Texas, when a seven year old swallowed a balloon she had been trying to mouth inflate.

Although you may not hear about individual cases, balloons cause more deaths by choking in kids than anything else, including sweets (candy), nuts and small toys, yet parents don’t believe there is a danger.
I remember at one of my shows, a mother asked for a balloon for her 2-year old and, when I refused and explained about not giving balloons to kids of that age, she said, “I was at a party where a baby choked on a balloon,” and I wondered why she had asked for one.
At another party, after explaining to a grandfather why his granddaughter whom he had just told me was two, couldn’t have a balloon, he said, “I’ve just remembered: She had a birthday last week. She’s three!” He still didn’t get a balloon. I’ve heard that one several times before. One of the mothers, at that show, said she hated balloons because she had witnessed a child choking on one.
I am amazed at how many parents don’t believe me about the dangers. They tell me I’m a genius at balloon modelling, then they ask for a balloon for their baby. When I refuse, I go from genius to idiot in a second. I often wonder why I am the only person at a party who seems to care about the safety of the kids.

On one occasion, I was explaining the dangers to a group who obviously didn’t believe a word I was saying, when an older child, thinking he’d show the balloonman what a fool he was, raised his balloon to his mouth. Just before it reached his lips, it burst, leaving him red-faced and the mothers grabbing their kids and taking their balloons away from them.
I’ve often wondered, if a kid chokes on one of my balloons, who will be held responsible?
I have noticed, once I’ve said I don’t give balloons to kids under three, none of the other kids are ever two. They’re all three and a half or have just turned three. Or so their parents tell me.

If I’ve asked the parent for the kid’s age, and they have lied and said three, would I be responsible if the kid chokes? Could they say I didn’t explain what might happen properly? After all, who would give their child a balloon if they really believed that he could die from it?
If I’m nice, and smiling when I tell them, could they say I was laughing and joking about it, and they thought I was only kidding. People often say, ” Oh, Health and Safety. Don’t worry I won’t give her the balloon,” then they wink as if we’re conspiring together to beat the regulations.
And it’s not just the parents. When the European Union decided all packaging should contain a warning about giving balloons to unsupervised kids under eight, the British Press reported it as a ban on kids inflating balloons, never mentioning the EU’s stated concern over the number of accidents and deaths caused by balloons.
Does your insurance cover you if you do something as foolish as giving a balloon to a child under the age of three? I would doubt it. As a professional you should know the danger. Most balloon web sites carry warning notices, as do some toy manufacturers’ sites.
But, despite all the warnings, there remains the fact that almost nobody believes that balloons are a danger to kids. And this could give you, the balloon modeller, problems. You need to cover yourself. You can give out cards carrying a warning with each balloon and, what I do, is put in my emails to my client a warning that I never give balloons to kids under three because of the danger of choking. This also makes it a little easier for me to refuse to give a balloon as I was hired after the client was informed of my policy.
Is this enough? I don’t know. Parents will do anything to get a balloon for their baby, even sending an older kid over for a balloon, then taking it from them and giving it to the child. Not content with this, they then bring the baby over to me and say, “We got one,” and I say, “Yes, and it’s in his mouth. If it bursts he could choke,” and off they go, laughing.
Some parents ask for a balloon for their baby but promise they’ll not give it to him. When I first started twisting, I believed them. As I handed over the balloon I repeated the warning not to give it to the baby. “I won’t,” they promised. Then, the first thing they’d do was give it to the kid, grin at me, and off they’d go, triumphant.
You can’t win. They obviously don’t believe any danger exists. But if you give them a balloon, you know they’re going to give it to their kid, so are you liable if he chokes on it? I hope the answer is No, but I wouldn’t bet on a court agreeing. You’re the expert. You know the parent will give the balloon to the kid, and you know what could happen.
The only answer I can think of is: Never give balloons to kids under three.

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