X-Ray Showing Inhaled Blowgun Dart
An X-ray showing a homemade blowgun dart lodged in the airway of a 15-year-old boy Reproduced with permission from Pediatrics, Copyright by the AAP.

Boys love their toys. But when it comes to a new do-it-yourself projectile fad, the results may be life-threatening.

According to the study published in the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, boys have been accidentally inhaling blowgun darts they made themselves. The projectiles, which were made by following instructions online, get lodged in their lower airway and could have serious complications.

"It's really a setup for foreign body aspiration," study researcher Dr. Kris Jatana, an ear, nose and throat doctor at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, told LiveScience.

The study highlighted three cases in which teenage boys inhaled blowgun darts. In one instance, a 15-year-old boy came to the emergency room after coughing for three hours. He admitted that he made blowgun darts from instructions he found on the Internet and accidentally inhaled instead of exhaled when trying to release the dart from the gun, USA Today reports.

Since the homemade devices did not have any safety feature that would prevent the dart from going into the mouth, they became lodged in the teen’s airway, Jatana said. When a child inhales deeply, the vocal cords are open and the “foreign body can go straight into the airway without obstruction,” Jatana said.

Although prompt treatment can have a favorable outcome, study authors said there can be serious complications like a punctured hole in the airway or lungs or an injured voice box.

"With this age group, it's sometimes hard to get an accurate history," Jatana told HealthDay about how some of the teens weren’t forthcoming with what caused their symptoms.

In all three cases, the teen boys found instructions online on how to make the blowgun darts. "The Internet is an avenue for this information to get out there to kids," Jatana said about how the teens were led to making the homemade blowgun darts. Jatana and his colleagues found 20 websites that gave instructions on how to make the projectiles. Some gave safety precautions on how to avoid injuring others, but none mentioned the risk of inhaling the darts, HealthDay reports.

In one set of instructions found on Ask.com, the darts are made with a coat hanger wire using wire cutters, an adhesive and an acetylene torch. Others use nails, PVC pipe and copper tubing.

“It’s just one of those things that could be an emerging problem,” Jatana told the Los Angeles Times about the reasons behind the study. “We’re really obligated to let people know that this occurred.”