...another way for kids to die

  On Thursday I attended a meeting of the EMSC Committee for the State of Virginia. ( EMSC stands for Emergency Medical Services for Children, and its a topic we should spend some time discussing in the future). This group oversees and makes recommendations about responding to emergencies for infants, children and adolescents. Obviously a big part of being able to respond to such emergencies is understanding what they are, and ways in which kids can be harmed.

I saw and heard a presentation about a new type of risky behavior, that is on the rise, and is killing or harming our children. I need to share it with you.

So, we all know about kids taking risks with drugs, alcohol, unprotected sex, fast and reckless driving, etc. We know about child physical and sexual abuse and most of our children's hospitals have worked hard to find ways to prevent bad things from happening to our kids.

On Thursday I learned about "the choking game" which is killing kids, and leaving others significantly brain damaged. Even here in Virginia. Please watch this choking game video from YouTube. I have seen and heard even more disturbing videos and sound clips that were taken from real live events. In this "game" which goes by many different names, kids choke themselves or each other until they pass out. They aim for significant events to occur, such as "twitching" which is really seizure activity caused by lack of oxygen to the brain. They are sometimes paid money if they can induce loss of bowel or bladder control. The activity causes an incredible "rush" that is like getting high, but because no drugs or alcohol are involved, it is "free" and many otherwise good kids are doing this. Kids who should know better, kids who are on the honor role in schools, who are headed to college or are in college.

Parents need to know about this. It is starting in kids as young as 8 or 9 years of age. Teachers need to know about this. Health care providers (pediatricians and family practitioners, nurses and midlevel practitioners) need to know about this.

Signs to look for: New onset of frequent headaches, bloodshot eyes, marks around the neck from thumbs pressing on the carotid arteries or from ligatures, petechiae (very small, tiny spots) on the face or neck, changes in behavior, seizure, changes in school performance, child seeming dazed or unsteady.

In looking back over the past year, I realize that I admitted to the hospital a number of kids who may have been doing this. I never asked, but could find no other reason for headache, or seizures, or other abnormalities in a few patients. Why didn't I think to ask if they were choking themselves or otherwise playing this "game?"  Because I didn't know it existed.

For more information see http://chokinggameawareness.blogspot.com/ or www.ChokingGame.net

Dont be afraid to introduce the subject to your children. Believe me, it is all over the internet.They have probably already heard about it but may not have heard about the dangers.  Older children introduce it to younger ones in the playground. We cannot tell them anything they don't already know, except that we can tell them THIS GAME IS NOT A GAME AND IT CAN KILL YOU

Recent Comments

I'm so very shocked that this really is news to the community. I'm sorry that people were not able to hear of it sooner so something could be done to educate parents and children about these dangers. I remember this acting going on while riding the school bus over ten years ago. The boys would take tuns pushing each other up against the bus windows decompressing the chest until knocked out on the floor. So many head injuries.

It is impossibly sad to think about one of our children dying from something we could have prevented if only we had known. I am a pediatric intensivist and have seen many children die. Some of preventable infectious diseases, some from accidental trauma, some from self-inflicted injury due to depression, or drug abuse. This is so sad, though because the kids don't have any idea it could kill them.

Thank you, Sarah for reading and commenting, and for trying so hard to educate others. One of the pieces I experienced on Thursday was listening to the 911 call your son made when Gabriel was found dead in his bedroom. If you have that available on your website, I encourage all my readers to go there and listen to it. We need to do something. Thank you for having the strength to relive this horrible moment from your life that you will never forget, never get past. You are a hero. Keep it up.

....Very good post! The Choking Game came into my life when it killed one of my 13 year old twin boys, Gabriel. Kids teach kids this activity which has been killing adolescents fo MANY MANY years. They do this at school, on the bus, at camp, at church, anywhere where kids are this 'game' is known about. Awareness and education will help save lives ...
....Sarah Pacatte
Games Adolescents Shouldn't Play

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About Dr. Ackerman

Alice Ackerman, MD, MBA, FAAP, FCCM is the Chair of the Department of Pediatrics at Carilion Clinic and Professor and Founding Chair of Pediatrics at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine. Dr. Ackerman is recognized nationally as an expert in pediatric critical care.

She has been at Carilion Clinic since June of 2007. Her primary goals are to enhance the health care of children in the Roanoke Valley and Southwest Virginia, and is actively working to do this both as physician in chief of the children's hospital, as well as through involvement with many state-wide initiatives.

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