Huffing Can Lead to Deadly Results

By: Jarrod Aldom
By: Jarrod Aldom

A potentially deadly addiction among children is catching on in the Valley. We explain why "huffing" is so dangerous, and what you can do as a parent to prevent it.

"Huffing" is simply the process of inhaling anything that has a strong odor. It first causes a euphoric feeling, then a period of sleepiness and relaxation. But its effects can be long lasting and deadly. And it's here in the Valley.

"We see a fair amount of cases here in a year's time, but we only see a small number of people that are actually doing it, so we think it's far more prevalent than people would realize," said Dr. Kent Folsom, Director of the emergency room at RMH.

Folsom says 20 to 25 percent of eight graders have tried huffing, and kids are trying it at earlier ages as well. He says the most worrisome immediate effect of huffing is something called "sudden sniffing death".

"Twenty percent of inhalers will die at their first try at it," explained Folsom. "It can cause a heart rhythm disturbance. We have had them in this area that die because of that immediately."

Folsom says most parents will suspect their kids of huffing due to changes in behavior. But he says there are other ways to tell.

Rash or paint stains around the child's mouth and nose are one way. As is evidence of empty containers or strange purchases like paint thinner. Drunkenness, stumbling, and confusion are other signs. More severe signs are seizures, convulsions, and collapse.

Officials at Lowe's Hardware say they're instituting a policy of carding those under 18 trying to buy items like paint thinner. It's not such a problem at local hardware stores, but they're aware of the potential danger.

"We would have to look at it and develop a policy to correct that situation and certainly do something about it," said Pewee Litten, manager of Rocking R Hardware.

Folsom says parents have to be aware that every house is full of items that can be used for huffing. He says even a small exposure to such materials can cause permanent brain damage in children.

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Inhalant Abuse

  • Huffing is the act of getting high by inhaling toxic fumes from legal household or industrial items.

  • Other names for this act are bagging and sniffing.

  • Huffing is responsible for more than 1,000 U.S. deaths annually.

  • Inhalant abuse is third to alcohol and marijuana in drug use by teens.

  • Twenty percent of all eighth graders have huffed inhalants.

Common Signs

  • Red, runny eyes or nose
  • Chemical breath
  • Slurred speech
  • Excessive or odd laughter
  • "Drunk" appearance
  • Glassy, dilated or constricted eyes
  • Sweating
  • Nonsensical talk, paranoia
  • Withdrawal from family
  • Apathy
  • Rags/Cotton balls and plastic bags with chemical odor
  • Correction fluid on nose, fingers, or clothes
  • Markers in pockets

Common Items Used for Huffing

  • Hair spray
  • Gasoline
  • Rubber cement glue
  • Furniture polish
  • Air fresheners
  • Spray paint
  • Liquid correction fluid
  • Paint thinners
  • Inhalers
  • Breath spray
  • Felt tip markers
  • Propane gas
  • Cleaning fluids
  • Tape head cleaners
  • Aerosol whipped cream
  • Vegetable cooking sprays
  • Paint thinners
  • Art or office supply solvents

Source: http://www.departments.dsu.edu/student_services/ra_projects/huffing.htm (Dakota State University Web site) contributed to this report.


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