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How to Know if Your Kids Are Huffing

Updated on September 24, 2007

What is Huffing?

Huffing, bagging, or sniffing is the inhalation of chemical vapors for a quick high. An estimated two million kids aged 12-17 are doing it. But first experiences can be as early as 6 - 8. It's one more horrible thing we've got to bring up before their friends do. While we've been getting serious about drugs and alcohol, kids have started doing pure poison. Inhalants are cheap and available in most households. Kids huff paint thinner, gasoline, markers, nail polish, correction fluid, and rubber cement. Just about anything in an aerosol can be mind altering if inhaled deeply. On top of that, a 2005 study shows that girls are huffing more than boys. Gee I wonder why - all those fabulous beauty products we push on them smell great.

Why Would My Kid Try Huffing?

Why not? Their friends tell them it's a good idea and if you haven't specifically addressed furniture polish as a dangerous substance, how are they to know? Few of us haven't sniffed the tip of a Sharpie in jest. But it's not funny. This is a trend that probably won't go away too soon. Talk to your kids - even the little ones.

If you want to be disturbed, or if you want to scare your child, just search U-Tube for kids huffing. There are plenty of messed up kids out there eager for you to get a good look at the effects of huffing.

A police officer's child dies from inhalants.

How Would I Know if My Kid Were Huffing?

A kid high on chemicals will be dazed, slur speech, and may lose appetite or be nauseous. Look for general drunk-like behavior. He may have a runny nose and sores rashes around the mouth and nose. A common tip off to parents is the strong chemical odor on the breath.

You may see paint or other stains from the cans on the child's face, hands, or clothing. Beware of an excess of empty containers in the trash or hidden around the house or yard. Kids may put the substance on a rag and inhale it from there instead of directly from the can so watch for chemical soaked cloth or clothing.

What Are the Effects of Huffing?

Because inhalants are poison, and that it's going straight into the blood stream, the first experiment can be fatal. The most common cause is sudden cardiac arrest. Other fatalities include injuries, suffocation and burns. Choking on vomit is another tragic end to huffing. As with any other high, a low soon follows, putting the child at risk for depression and even suicide.

It takes about two weeks for inhalants to leave the body and in that time the child may continue to feel nausea and possibly lose weight. Huffing damages the brain, affecting memory, concentration, hearing, and coordination. Over time permanent brain damage is possible. Chronic use of inhalants can also cause heart, lung, liver, and kidney damage.


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