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.
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