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The salt and ice challenge: Don't let your teen get burned

Sherri Kuhn is a freelance writer, blogger and social media junkie. With a son in college and a daughter in high school, she always has something to write about. Sherri blogs from the heart — with an occasional side of sarcasm and humor...

Game has serious consequences

This teen challenge may seem like harmless fun, but it can have serious consequences. The salt and ice challenge can leave participants with second- or third-degree burns and lasting scars. See what other dangerous teen trends parents should be on the lookout for.

The videos are all over YouTube — teens and even younger children challenging each other to a test of pain tolerance. It seems innocent enough, until you see the injuries many of them suffer.

What is the salt and ice challenge?

The challenge involves nothing more than a handful of salt and some ice cubes. Participants pour the salt into their hand and then add the ice cubes. Some simply close their fist and see how long they can hold it closed — others actually have friends press the salt/ice mixture onto their skin and hold it. The object is to see who has the higher pain tolerance and can withstand the burning pain the longest.

Part of the lure for teens is the possibility of becoming an internet superstar by posting a video of this party game on YouTube and sharing it with friends. The popularity of these videos makes it harder to stop teens from trying the challenge themselves, especially when they watch video footage of someone who isn’t badly injured.

Why it burns

Tell your kids:The mixture of salt and ice cubes can cause third-degree burns because adding salt to ice or ice water makes it colder.

Think back to your basic chemistry class in high school, or the last time you made homemade ice cream. Adding salt to ice or ice water actually lowers the temperature and makes it colder than the regular freezing temperature for water, 32 degrees F. The mixture soaks up heat from the surrounding skin cells, causing a second- or third-degree burn similar to frostbite. Anyone who has ever had extended contact with ice or very cold water knows how uncomfortable it feels on your skin.

A 12-year-old Pittsburgh boy suffered second-degree burns after he participated in the salt and ice challenge. Dr. Ariel Aballay, director at the West Penn Burn Center where the boy was treated, discussed the case and showed startling images of the boy’s burns. His parents, who chose to remain anonymous, released a statement: “We want teenagers and the general public to know that the ‘salt and ice challenge’ is extremely dangerous. Videos on YouTube, Facebook and other social media do not accurately show the terrible injuries that can result. We are grateful that our son is recovering and hope that sharing his story will stop other young people from attempting this stunt.”

Other dangerous tween/teen trends

Snorting or smoking Smarties: What? Last time we checked, Smarties were supposed to be eaten. In this challenge, Smarties are crushed into a fine powder and snorted using a straw or rolled-up paper. Or they pour the powder into their mouth and either blow the smoke out of their mouth like a cigarette or out their nose. Beyond just being stupid, kids run the risk of infections in the nasal cavity.

The fire challenge: This may be the stupidest thing teens have done in a long time. This challenge starts with the teen pouring rubbing alcohol on his body — which already sounds like a bad idea. Then the alcohol is lit on fire, and the teen frantically attempts to douse the flames with his hands, a bath towel or anything else nearby. The danger here is obvious — serious burns are nothing to play with.

The eraser challenge: The idea seems easy enough. Teens rub an eraser against their skin repeatedly while reciting a word for each letter of the alphabet or for a specific period of time. Sounds harmless, but the pressure on the skin from the back-and-forth motion can cause wounds that bleed, may become infected and lead to scarring.

Take a few minutes to talk to your kids about these challenges, and share some of the horrible images of burns. What seems like a harmless game can leave scars for a lifetime.

More parenting teens

Popularity of inhaling nitrous oxide is a dangerous trend
Are slumber parties the new excuse for hooking up?
Teaching your teens to shop responsibly

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