Beware of the Choking Game
During the “choking game,” teens choke each other or use a noose to choke themselves to produce a brief high. The “player” can pass out quickly. Serious injuries may result, such as bleeding retinas, brain damage, broken bones from falls or even death.
Teens have died from hanging or strangulation. “The choking game may not be as prevalent as other risky behaviors like drugs, but the issue is that it can result in death,” says Dr. Nancy Bass, a pediatric neurologist at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital. Dr. Bass has seen four choking game-related deaths in her 16 years of practice.
The Injury Center at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) urges parents to watch for these warning signs of the choking game:
- Discussion of the game or its aliases (such as Pass-out, Space Monkey, Suffocation Roulette or Scarf Game)
- Bloodshot eyes
- Marks on the neck
- Wearing high-necked shirts, even in warm weather
- Frequent, severe headaches
- Disorientation after time spent alone
- Ropes, scarves and belts tied to bedroom furniture or doorknobs, or found knotted on the floor
- Unexplained presence of dog leashes, choke collars, bungee cords or the like
- Pinpoint bleeding spots under the skin in the facial area, especially the eyelids
“Arming oneself with information can help a parent to recognize a child’s possible involvement with the choking game,” Dr. Bass says. “If you suspect that your teen is involved in this game, talk to him or her about the dangers of the behavior and, if necessary, seek immediate help from your health care provider.”
Dr. Bass says the best way to approach adolescents is to be direct with them. “I’ll just come out and say, ‘Have you ever heard of the choking game, and have you ever played it?’ Their reaction usually reveals all — then it’s time for hard facts. I just do a bit of education and say, ‘Frankly, kids have died doing this,’” she says.
Source: University Hospitals, Under The Rainbow