Unexplained coughing and wheezing in teens? Could be inhaled blowgun dart

Blow gun dart lodged in teenage boy’s throat after he inhaled it. Reproduced with permission from Pediatrics, Copyright @ by the AAP.
Blow gun dart lodged in teenage boy’s throat after he inhaled it. Reproduced with permission from Pediatrics, Copyright @ by the AAP.

Among the many things teenage boys are surreptitiously searching for on the internet, here’s one parents may not have thought of: instructions on how to build a blowgun. Boys are building these devices and sometimes using them incorrectly—inhaling instead of exhaling which causes the dart to become lodged in their throat or lungs.

Pediatricians reported seeing three such cases in teen boys over a three-month span in a study published Monday in the journal Pediatrics. All of the boys accidentally inhaled blowgun darts after building guns from instructions found on websites and went to the emergency room after developing severe coughing and wheezing.

The darts were removed via an endoscope from their windpipe, and the boys made a full recovery.

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Emergency room doctors should be aware of this problem, wrote the study authors, and consider ordering a chest X-ray in teenagers with unexplained coughing or wheezing since those boys in the study were reluctant at first to admit that they were handling these guns.

Researchers frequently report on weird foreign objects that kids inhale or swallow but the blowgun dart phenomenon is fairly new. Teenage girls have also been known to accidentally inhale objects, but in their case it’s usually a hair clip or scarf pin held in their mouth while fixing their hair.