Choking game: What are the warning signs?

content provided by

Choking game: What are the warning signs?

Whether it's done as a dare, a rite of passage or a desire to get high without using drugs or alcohol, the choking game has potentially deadly consequences. Understand how the choking game works — and what you can do if you think your child may be involved in this dangerous activity.

What is the choking game?

Participants in the choking game — typically adolescents — attempt to trigger a high by temporarily depriving the brain of oxygen through strangulation. The choking game is often done with a noose or another person's hands around the participant's neck. A child may also take a deep breath, hold it, and have someone hug him or her from behind until he or she feels dizzy and passes out.

The choking game is also sometimes called the blackout game, pass-out game, scarf game and space monkey.

What are the consequences of the choking game?

The choking game can result in serious injuries, such as seizures, fractures and permanent brain damage. Taken to an extreme, the choking game can be life-threatening. If a child plays the choking game alone and with a noose, for example, he or she may lose consciousness and be unable to release the noose.

What are the warning signs of the choking game?

Warning signs that a child may be playing the choking game include:

  • Unexplained bruises around the neck
  • Frequent, often severe headaches
  • Bloodshot eyes or small, red facial spots
  • Disorientation after being alone
  • Sheets, belts, neckties, scarves, T-shirts or ropes tied to bedroom furniture or doorknobs, or found knotted on the floor
  • Mentioning choking games, showing curiosity about asphyxiation or having a history of Internet searches about choking games
  • Wear marks on furniture legs

Your child may be at higher risk of playing the choking game if he or she has had mental health problems or substance abuse issues.

What can I do if I suspect my child is participating in the choking game?

If you suspect that your child is playing the choking game, talk to him or her. Avoid making accusations. Instead, ask your child if he or she has ever played the choking game or has friends who play it. Explain the risks and remind your child that there's no safe way to play the choking game. If your child admits to playing the choking game, tell him or her that it's important to stop. In addition, consult your child's doctor and a mental health provider. They may have advice on additional steps you can take to help your child. Be sure to alert the parents of other children who may have played the choking game with your child, too.

Last Updated: 2010-07-01
© 1998-2014 Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER). All rights reserved. A single copy of these materials may be reprinted for noncommercial personal use only. "Mayo," "Mayo Clinic," "," "Mayo Clinic Health Information," "Reliable information for a healthier life" and the triple-shield Mayo logo are trademarks of Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research.

Terms and conditions of use


Bookmark and Share   E-Mail Page   Printer Friendly Version