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When 14-year-old Ashley Long told her parents that she was attending a slumber party at her friend's house last weekend, the last thing they probably thought was that their little girl would die. Unfortunately, Ashley died after inhaling helium from a pressurized tank at a party thrown by one of her friend's older sisters. The tragic incident is drawing more attention to the dangers of inhaling helium, although it has typically been viewed as a harmless and fun way to create a cartoonish and high-pitched voice.

According to reports, Ashley consumed alcohol while riding in the car to the party and then some more at the party. Ultimately, she was peer pressured into inhaling the helium through a pressurized tank and was assured that it was fun and harmless. However, she collapsed after inhaling and later died at a hospital from what doctors say was an obstruction in a blood vessel caused by the helium.

Dr. Mark Morocco, an associate professor of emergency medicine at the Ronald Reagan Medical Center in Los Angeles, says that people who died from inhaling helium from a pressurized tank experience a similar effect as scuba divers who come up too fast from deep sea levels. A gas bubble gets caught in the bloodstream through some kind of tear in the blood vessel and causes blocked blood flow to the brain, resulting in a stroke.

Although deaths from inhaling helium are low, experts say that its important to remind kids that ingesting any substance to get high or achieve some other "funny" effect like changing the voice is dangerous.

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