Choking Game Prevention, Children Ages Six to 19 Years

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates there were 82 likely choking game deaths among children ages six to 19 between the years 1995 and 2007. Of these deaths, 81 were male.

The good news is that you, as a parent or caregiver, can prevent your child from playing the choking game.

What is the choking game?

The choking game is not a game. It is a very dangerous activity that children and teens may engage in to get a brief high. The game involves children choking themselves or each other using a noose. The noose can be made from things like computer cables, shoelaces or dog leashes.

Are there any other names for the choking game?

Other names for the choking game include:

  • Airplaning
  • American dream
  • Blacking out/blackout
  • California high or choke
  • Flat liner
  • Gasp
  • Pass-out
  • Purple hazing
  • Purple dragon
  • Roulette
  • Scarf game
  • Space monkey
  • Space cowboy
  • Suffocation

What are the signs that my child might be playing the choking game?

  • Talking about the game
  • Physical symptoms:
    • Bloodshot eyes
    • Frequent and severe headaches
    • Unexplained marks on the neck
    • Pinpoint bleeding spots under the skin of the face, the eyelids, or the lining of the eyelids and eyes
  • Personality and behavior changes:
    • Disorientation after spending time alone
    • Increased and uncharacteristic irritability or hostility
    • Wearing high-necked shirts, even in warm weather
  • The presence of ropes, scarves, and/or belts tied to bedroom furniture or doorknobs, or left out.
  • The unexplained presence of items like dog leashes, choke collars or bungee cords.

What are the consequences of playing the choking game?

After just a few seconds of choking, children may pass out. This can lead to serious injury or even death from hanging or strangulation. Within three minutes of continued strangulation, basic functions such as memory and balance start to fail. If this happens, death can occur shortly after.

Non-fatal, long-term consequences of the choking game can also occur:

  • Loss of consciousness and death of brain cells due to the lack of oxygen in the brain
  • Coma
  • Seizures
  • Concussions
  • Broken bones (due to falling)
  • Eye hemorrhages (broken blood vessels in the eye)

What should I do if I think my child plays the choking game?

  • Talk honestly and openly to your child. Ask them what they know about the choking game and explain the dangers to them.
  • Increase their supervision and be aware of their activities and whereabouts.
  • Remove any items that could be used to hurt themselves, like belts, scarves, and cords.
  • Alert school personnel. If one student is involved, others could be as well.
  • Talk to your child's doctor about any injuries that may have resulted from this activity.
  • Seek help from a mental health professional to determine if there are problems that need treatment.

Where can I find out more information about the choking game?