Posted On: December 21, 2009

The Deadly "Choking Game"

As deadly as some of the risky behaviors today’s adolescents engage in, like drunk driving and drug use, is the much lesser known “choking game” that some physicians have never heard of. Amina Khan writes in The Los Angeles Times that the choking game, also known as “space monkey,” “sleeper hold” and “funky chicken,” can be played two ways:

One can be a solo operation, using a necktie, belt or other type of binding to put pressure on the carotid artery in the neck. The other method involves a partner, who can apply pressure to the neck or chest until the subject passes out, cutting off blood flow to the brain.

The resulting rush of oxygen once pressure is released generates a pleasurable sensation, or "natural high."

Statistics on the exact number of deaths over the years can be difficult to ascertain because such deaths are often mistaken for suicide. But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated in February 2008, from surveying news stories, that the game probably resulted in 82 deaths from 1995 to 2007.

The relatively low incidence rate corresponds to fewer physicians being aware of the game than is ideal. In an Ohio survey, only 68% of responding physicians had heard of the game. However, there is plenty of reason for doctors to learn about and screen for the signs of patients playing this game: there have been at least 65 YouTube videos of the game, and according to surveys, many children do not realize the dangers associated with the game. An Injury prevention article reported that as many as 40% of students in a survey “said they perceived no risk from [the game].”

Doctors are encouraged to educate themselves and their patients about the game, and to look out for signs such as “unexplainable headaches, red marks dismissed as hickeys, bloodshot eyes, signs of depression,” says Khan in the Times story.

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Posted On: December 18, 2009

"Simplicity" cribs: Now responsible for eleven baby deaths

The death toll from Simplicity cribs, which were recalled four years ago but are still in widespread use, has jumped from four to eleven, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

The Associated Press reports:

The recall of Simplicity-manufactured cribs began in December 2005. More than 2 million Simplicity drop-side cribs have been recalled so far because of problems with their plastic hardware. Some of the recalled cribs have the Graco logo and Winnie the Pooh motif.

The crib's hardware can break or deform, causing the drop side to detach. This detachment creates a space between the drop side and crib mattress that babies can roll into and become entrapped, leading to suffocation risk.

The CPSC says caregivers should check their cribs to see whether they have a recalled Simplicity crib. If they do, consumers should stop using them immediately and should not attempt to fix the cribs.

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Posted On: December 10, 2009

Infant Deaths Prompt Baby Hammock Recalls

This week the Consumer Product Safety Commission announced a voluntary recall of 24,000 motion beds for babies, writes Jennifer Kerr of the Associated Press. Manufactured by Amby Baby of USA and sold online through its website since 2003, Amby Baby Motion Beds consist of a steel frame and a fabric hammock that has mesh sides and hangs from a spring. The bed gently swings as the baby moves, a feature designed to resemble babies’ motion in the maternal womb.

Although many babies have found comfort in these hammock beds, there is a hidden risk of suffocation: as the bed moves back and forth, babies could roll and become trapped or wedged against the fabric or the mattress pad. In fact, as Jennifer Kerr reports, two infant deaths in the United States have been associated with Amby Baby Motion Beds, which prompted the CPSC’s recall of the product.

In her story, Jennifer Kerr quotes Nancy Cowles, executive director of Kids In Danger, “There is currently no safety standards that would cover hammocks.” Kerr says that safety advocates maintain that it’s safest for babies to be “in cribs or bassinets with a firm bottom support and no soft bedding, gaps or other points where they could become trapped.”

The CPSC urges parents to immediately stop using the hammock beds for the safety of their babies.

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Posted On: December 4, 2009

Are Your Children's Toys Safe?

According to a Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) report, in 2007, there were 22 toy-related deaths in the United States, and in 2008 there were 19. That translates to at least one death every month in from dangerous toys – toys that should provide enjoyment but instead have hidden death traps.

The causes of deaths include, among others, airway obstruction, strangulation, and blunt force. Dangerous toys also account for other serious injuries like laceration and burns, as well as more than 170,000 emergency room visits annually for injuries to children 15 years or younger, according to Don Keenan, Atlanta attorney and child advocate.

Don Keenan has put together a list of Top 10 Dangerous Toys for 2009, available on his website, Keenan’s Kids Foundation. He also has a link to CPSC’s list of recalled toys.

Notably, in Don Keenan’s introduction to the Top 10 Dangerous Toys list, he cautions consumers that many of these dangerous toys, although banned or recalled by the CPSC, still made their way onto the shelves in stores like Target or Walmart. The recalled toys are also easily available on the Internet at sites like eBay or in used toy stores. Other toys that were not recalled also may not be completely safe – in February 2009, the government enacted stringent standards, but Keenan’s Kids Foundation estimates that as many as 5% of toys currently on the market probably do not meet the new safety standards (such as requiring all children products to be tested by a third-party lab to ensure they meet safety standards, and banning the use of phthalates, a plastic softener, or products that contain trace amounts of lead).

Therefore, in this holiday gift-buying season, parents are urged to use extra caution in selecting safe toys, by carefully reading the safety warning label to see if the toy is age-appropriate for your children, and comparing against the CPSC’s recall list.

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