Choking Game Sparks Public Health Warning

February 15, 2008

A game played by young people in which strangulation is used to stimulate a temporary high caused by cerebral hypoxia has caused the deaths of at least 82 youths in the United States, according to a study published in the Feb. 15 issue of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. The CDC has issued a warning for parents to be vigilant for signs that their children are playing the game.

<p>FRIDAY, Feb. 15 (HealthDay News) -- A game played by young people in which strangulation is used to stimulate a temporary high caused by cerebral hypoxia has caused the deaths of at least 82 youths in the United States, according to a study published in the Feb. 15 issue of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Preventions <i>Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report</i>. The CDC has issued a warning for parents to be vigilant for signs that their children are playing the game.</p><p>Robin L. Toblin, Ph.D., M.P.H., of the CDC and colleagues gathered information from news media reports to estimate the probable number of choking game deaths among young people aged 6 to 19 years between 1995 and 2007. The mean age of the decedents was 13.3 years, and 71 (86.6 percent) of them were male.</p><p>The warning signs of children playing the choking game, also known by names such as the scarf game, the pass-out game and space monkey, include bloodshot eyes, severe headaches, marks on the neck, makeshift nooses tied to bedroom furniture or doors and disorientation after a child has spent time alone.</p><p>"Among the 70 deaths for which sufficient detail was reported, 67 (95.7 percent) occurred while the decedent was alone. Among the 42 deaths for which sufficient detail was reported, 39 parents (92.9 percent) of decedents said they were not aware of the choking game until the death of their child," the authors write.</p><a href="http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5706a1.htm" target="_new">Full Text</a></p>

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