Pediatric surgeons have issued a warning about accidental inhalation of homemade blow-gun darts, after treating three teenage boys in three months at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.
Physicians in the August issue of Pediatrics, published online today, report that in three separate cases, the children learned how to make the blow gun and darts by watching online videos, then inadvertently inhaling the darts.
When a child inhales deeply (to produce a forceful breath to propel the dart forward), their vocal chords open fully, which makes it easier for objects to enter their airway, said study researchers Dr. Kris R. Jatana, a pediatric surgeon and otolaryngologist at the hospital.
“The researchers found that all three patients presented with cough and reported aspiration, and two of the three patients had wheezing. Two of the three patients initially hesitated to explain their predicament, but all eventually admitted constructing and inadvertently aspirating the blow-gun dart. A needle-shaped, metallic foreign body was revealed on chest radiograph in all cases. In all three patients, the blow-gun dart was removed using emergent rigid bronchoscopy, and symptoms resolved without complication. Twenty websites were identified that had instructions on how to make homemade blow-gun darts. Only a few of the websites provided any safety warnings,” reported HealthDay News.
“Blow-gun dart aspiration, although relatively uncommon, can have serious consequences,” the authors wrote in Pediatrics. “Certainly, a high index of suspicion for aspiration is necessary in the adolescent male population presenting with vague respiratory complaints. A low threshold for chest radiography in this population can assist in diagnosis.”
All three boys were lucky enough not to have any serious complications, Jatana told LiveScience. Anytime an object is inhaled and trapped in the airway, it can be life-threatening, he said. A dart could puncture a hole in the airway or lungs, or injure the voice box.
“We know that there are other cases that haven’t been widely reported in the literature.” Several colleagues had come across similar cases at other facilities where they worked, Jatana said.
Boys With Blowguns
A recent report found at least twenty websites with directions for making a dart blowgun. The online instructions, however, rarely warned about the potential danger of breathing darts into the airway. As a result, some teenage boys have been hurt.