Boys With Blowguns

Teenagers making homemade blowguns using online instructions

(RxWiki News) Whether it's online or in the real world, teens find ways to get into trouble. A new study highlights one bit of online information that could turn into a real-world problem for some teens.

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 your airway. As a result, some teenage boys have been injured and have had surgery to remove darts.

"Talk to your children about possible dangers online."

Patrick Walz, MD, from The Wexner Medical Center at Ohio State University and from Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, and colleagues wrote this case report to bring awareness to the dangers of homemade blow guns.

The authors of this report had three patients within three months who were injured by breathing in darts from a homemade blowgun. All three patients were teenage boys who said they found directions for making the blowgun online. The darts had to be removed through surgery.

These authors said that breathing in a dart is easy to do if the child has the gun in his mouth right before blowing the dart. While breathing in deeply to prepare to blow, the vocal cords open, allowing the dart into the tracheal bronchial tree, where it can then get stuck in the child's airway. 

Because the Internet is widely available, and the materials to make a dartgun are household items, the authors stressed the importance of educating parents and teenagers of the possible dangers of homemade blowguns.

The researchers found twenty websites telling how to build a blowgun but few had warnings about breathing in with the gun in your mouth.

Kris Jatana, MD, one of the authors of this report, told dailyRx News that parents should be aware of what kind of information is available on the Internet. Dr. Jatana also said that children don't always tell doctors and parents what really happened.

The boys are usually worried about getting in trouble. Because they do not want to tell anyone what happened, the delay in seeking medical help can also cause more serious harm.

The problem is also important for doctors to be aware of. "Most patients come in reporting a cough or wheezing," Dr. Jatana said. "When we think of children under 18 aspirating [breathing in] an object, we normally think of children under 4 with food."

The authors noted that chest x-rays can help find the problem.

This case report was published July 22 in Pediatrics.

The authors indicated they had no external funding. The authors disclosed no conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
July 18, 2013