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"Blackout Challenge" Continues To Lead To Unexpected Child Deaths: Signs Safe Adults Should Know

Leon Brown, 14, from Cumbernauld, UK, died after he allegedly attempted the deadly challenge that has been blamed for several deaths of teens and prepubescent kids.

A few weeks ago, Archie Battersbee, from London, was taken off life support after months in a coma allegedly caused by the same online challenge.

According to Lauryn Keating, 30, Leon's mother, she found her son unresponsive in his room at their home, on August 25.

A spokesperson for police in Cumbernauld confirmed they were notified about "the sudden death of a 14-year-old boy at Ochilview Court in Cumbernauld around 8 a.m. on Thursday, 25 August, 2022." They said, "There are no suspicious circumstances surrounding his death."

Keating said she found out later that her son had joined others in the "blackout challenge," one of several fatal trends that has been spreading through TikTok.

The "blackout challenge" is a form of self-strangulation that challenges TikTok users to see how long they can hold their breath. The challenge sounds simple but doing this could restrict oxygen to your brain and may result in seizures, serious injury, or death.

Keating said she had heard of the challenge because of what happened to Archie Battersbee. Leon's friends told her, "He had been doing the challenge on Facetime with them after seeing it on TikTok."

Keating said her son "thought he would be the one to try it first. Him and his friends probably thought it was a laugh and a joke." Unfortunately, Leon "fell unconscious and never recovered." One of Leon's friends said "they thought they would wake up."

Keating said, "You just don't expect your own child to do it." This is why she is using Leon's tragic passing as a cautionary tale to prevent other kids from suffering the same fate. Keating tells other parents to talk to their kids. "Please warn them, these online challenges aren't worth their lives." She said, "They aren't worth 'likes' or whatever they are doing it for." Ben Cost "Another child dies from viral 'blackout challenge': 'It went horribly wrong' https://nypost.com/2022/09/01/another-child-dies-from-viral-blackout-challenge-it-went-horribly-wrong/ (Sep. 01, 2022).

Commentary and Checklist

The “blackout challenge” became popular recently via TikTok. However, this “game” has been around for several years.

According to a 2008 article from CDC, there were “unintentional strangulation deaths from the ‘choking game’ among youths aged six to 19 in the United States, from 1995 to 2007.”

Another CDC article states that, “At least 82 youth have died as a result of playing what has been called “the choking game.”

This deadly game resurfaced on TikTok in 2021 and many parents are unaware that their kids have been participating, just like Leon’s Mom.

According to Dr. Nick Flynn, a GP at Union Quay Medical Centre, Cork, “What is actually going on in the brain is a lack of oxygen similar to when someone is drowning, choking, or having a cardiac arrest.”

Dr. Flynn said, “It causes brain hypoxia or low levels of oxygen in the brain and that can cause seizures and death. If you have low oxygen to the brain for over three minutes you can get brain damage and if you have low oxygen to the brain for over five minutes it can result in death.”

Parents, guardians, and other safe adults should know the signs if their child has been participating in the “Blackout Challenge.”

The CDC said if parents believe that their child is participating in the “blackout challenge” they should speak to them about the life-threatening dangers associated with the challenge and seek additional help if needed.

Here are signs that your child may be participating in the blackout challenge, according to the CDC:

  • Your child is discussing the game, including other terms used for it, such as "pass-out game" or "space monkey"
  • Your child has bloodshot eyes
  • Your child has marks on the neck
  • Your child is suffering from severe headaches
  • Your child feels disoriented after spending time alone
  • Ropes, scarves, and belts tied to bedroom furniture or doorknobs or found knotted on the floor
  • Unexplained presence of things like dog leases, choke collars, and bungee cords
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