Viral ‘Boiling Water Challenge’ Sending People To Hospital

Another viral trend is resulting in hospital visits, CNN is reporting. The “boiling water challenge” can only be performed in cold weather, so naturally it’s seen a spike these past few weeks due to the polar vortex that resulted in three-quarters of the population of the United States experiencing temperatures at or below freezing. The challenge requires you to throw boiling water into the air and watch it freeze in mid-air, and has already sent eight people to the burn center of Chicago’s Loyola University Medical Center. Chicago hit record temperatures of negative 21 degrees.

According to spokeswoman Chris Vicik, injuries included burns to feet, arms, hands, and faces at varying severity. The University of Iowa Burn Treatment Center in Iowa City also reports treating someone there due the boiling water challenge, and Hennepin Healthcare in Minneapolis said a “couple” of people have been treated for the same reason. Both Vicik and Angie Whitley, the clinical care supervisor in Hennepin Healthcare’s burn center, say that some of the injuries came from bystanders who were simply watching someone attempting to pull off the stunt.

“Some of them being parents or adults (who) go outside with their kids to do it, and the kids kind of get excited and step in the way, and the parents end up throwing the water on the children,” Whitley said. “Or, people throw it in the air just as a gust of wind comes, and (the water) catches the wind and it blows it back on them — so we see some face scald injuries from that.”

Dr. Jeff Schaider, the chairman of emergency medicine at Cook County Health in Chicago, pointed out that bare skin shouldn’t even be exposed in temperatures this low. If water gets onto the skin, it can freeze quickly and result in frostbite.

“The gamut runs from essentially being burned from hot liquid to being exposed to the cold air,” said Schaider. “If your hand has water on it, that freezes pretty quick. That’s a bigger risk, actually.”

Schaider says the most typical of burns are first or second degree, and include pain and blisters. At worst, a burn from the boiling water challenge could leave someone in need of a skin graft. While Schaider agrees seeing water freeze in mid-air is an interesting phenomenon, he feels it’s best to stick to just watching videos of the trick as it isn’t worth the risk of trying it for yourself.

“It’s tempting to try,” Schaider admitted. “It looks like it’s pretty cool, but it’s probably a bad idea.”