The old saying of "kids will be kids" at times is used to give ourselves permission to allow children to experiment with unwise situations. But playing with blowguns is cause for an intervention. Surgeons at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, reported on three cases in which children had homemade blowgun darts stuck in their throats, with similar cases reported around the country.

Surgeons reported the three cases of blowgun dart inhalation, known in the medical world as aspiration. All three cases occurred within four months with blowguns constructed from homemade materials. Assembly instructions were found on at least 20 different websites, the surgeons reported.

"Blowgun dart aspiration, although relatively uncommon, can have serious consequences," the researchers write. "With the accessibility of the internet and a large number of instructional websites available, this clinical entity may continue to become more common in the future."

The Blowdart Kids: A Medical Case Study

The surgeons saw their first case of blowgun dart aspiration in 2011, when a 15-year-old boy complained about coughing, however, it wasn't until after his x-rays showed a four-inch long metal needle in his lower airway that he admitted to accidentally inhaling the dart, Reuters reported.

The boy underwent a bronchoscopy, a proceduring in which a camera attached to an endotracheal tube is inserted to find and remove the object. In his case, cotton strands were still attached from the actual blowgun. Luckily, he suffered no complications. The surgeons saw another boys cases shortly thereafter, also undergoing surgery without any complications.

"It requires surgery under general anesthesia... Most of the time we're able to remove these in children with long-term (complications)... But there are other times when we have to perform open surgery through the neck," Dr. Kris Jatana, the study's lead author, told Reuters.

Although these operations were successful, Jatana warns that any inhalation of foreign objects can pose serious risks, including infection and choking. The kids tried taking deep breaths to blow the darts out, however, in doing so, they ended up sucking the dart into their lower airways. He says that these deep inhalations fully open the vocal chords, increasing the chance of lodging the darts further down the airway.

Other Life-Threatening Situations Popularized By The Internet

These incidences just add to a number of other situations in which kids may need medical attention for their airways. The "cinnamon challenge," which can be seen in many videos on YouTube, involves a person trying to swallow a spoonful of cinnamon. More often than not, they end up coughing and choking, while friends stand-by in amusement.

The spice, however, is made up of cellulose fibers that don't dissolve or biodegrade if aspirated into the lungs. Animal studies into its intratracheal effects have shown that it could possibly cause long-term damage to the various structures within the lungs.

Another popular "challenge" is called Chubby Bunny, which involves stuffing one's mouth with marshmallows and attempting to say the words "chubby bunny." These marshmallows subsequently expand, and "may create a larger mass that can obstruct the airway," Dr. Christina Hantsch, a toxicologist at Loyola University Health System in Chicago, said.

Jatana advised parents to be aware of what their kids are doing on the Internet, as it's the source of many of these challenges and dares.

"I think it's difficult, but try to keep close supervision to what your children are doing on the Internet... and certainly discourage any type of participation in these types of activities, because they can be life threatening," he said.

Source: Jatana K, Walz P, Scholes M, et al. The Internet, Adolescent Males, and Homemade Blowgun Darts: A Recipe for Foreign Body Aspiration. Pediatrics. 2013.