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Blowgun backfire: Teens accidentally inhaling darts, docs warn

7:40 AM, Jul 23, 2013   |    comments
X-ray images show a 15-year-old boy with a blowgun dart (marked by red arrows) lodged in his windpipe. / REPRODUCED WITH PERMISSION FROM PEDIATRICS
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(CBSNews.com) - Kids will be kids, and sometimes when they goof around they hurt themselves. The Internet has brought these risks to whole new levels, prompting recent warnings from pediatricians over the "cinnamon challenge" and the "ice and salt challenge."

Next up on the list, Ohio doctors are warning about kids playing with homemade blowguns. In a new study, they detail the cases of teens that ended up in the emergency room because darts from blowguns they made using Internet directions backfired, sending the sharp darts down their throats.

"Blowgun dart aspiration, although relatively uncommon, can have serious consequences," wrote the researchers, led by Dr. Patrick C. Walz, a resident in the department of otolaryngology-head and neck surgery at the Werner Medical Center at The Ohio State University in Columbus. "With the accessibility of the Internet and large number of instructional websites available, this clinical entity may continue to become more common in the future."

An aspiration is defined as breathing in a foreign object, such as sucking food through the airway. If it happens to be a piece of metal, like from a blowgun dart, a patient can experience serious consequences like infection, breathing problems,

Doctors at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio got blowgun darts on their radar after a 15-year-old boy presented to the hospital's emergency room after coughing and wheezing for a few hours, only to eventually admit a homemade blowgun dart had accidentally gone down his throat. When the boy had went to take a deep breath to exhale the dart, he inadvertently inhaled, leading to the aspiration.

The boy was rushed to the operating room where he underwent a bronchoscopy. For the procedure, a tube-like device is inserted into the airways and lungs, first through the nose and mouth, then through the windpipe and into the lungs. Doctors pulled out the wayward dart, along with cotton strands that were part of the blowgun's construction. The patient was then discharged from the hospital without complications.

Two other, similar cases had come into the hospital within a three-month period, which "heightened the awareness" of the doctors, they wrote in the study, published July 22 in Pediatrics.

"It requires surgery under general anesthesia... Most of the time we're able to remove these in children without long-term [complications]... but there are other times when we have to perform open surgery through the neck," study co-author Dr. Kris Jatana, a pediatric otolaryngologist-head and neck surgeon, told Reuters.

All the patients had good outcomes, luckily, once the dart was removed.

All three cases involved teenage boys, two of them aged 15 and one 14. They each built the blowguns from instructions found online. The researchers took to the Web and came across more than 20 sites with instructions for making a blowgun.

While none of these cases involved girls, the researchers pointed out young females are often found to be at risk for aspirations other objects like turban or scarf pins.

Two of the patients did not readily divulge the truth of how their injuries were caused, which is why the researchers urged doctors to be on the lookout for symptoms. They said when someone is trying to suck in their breath, the vocal folds in the throat are fully abducted, or come apart, raising risk for aspiration.

"Certainly, a high degree of suspicion among clinicians and prompt treatment can result in good outcomes."

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