Some kids getting seriously injured as ‘salt and ice challenge’ makes a comeback

A YouTube video featuring this image of the salt and ice challenge has nearly 7 million views
A YouTube video featuring this image of the salt and ice challenge has nearly 7 million views

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (WISH) — The salt and ice challenge is making a comeback, and it’s sending children to the hospital once again.

Salt and ice are common household items — things you wouldn’t think could cause serious injury. But salt lowers the temperature of ice and the melting water to about 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit. When teens put the salt on their skin and hold an ice cube on top, it can cause serious burns. Some severe cases have required skin grafts, according to doctors we spoke with at Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health.

“Kids at the time don’t think much of it, and then they’re left with a scar they have for the rest of their life — and potentially infection to the area,” said Dr. Cory Showalter, medical director for the emergency department at Riley Hospital.

Effects from the salt and ice challenge often don’t become noticeable until after numbness and redness from the ice has subsided, so many kids aren’t getting the medical attention they need until the damage has been done.

Doctors say it’s important for parents to make sure they are connecting with teens and watching for warning signs.

“Keep an eye on your kids to look for bruises, which can be a sign of abuse or bullying or even a medical condition. And also [watch] for things like these scars that they’ll get from burns,” Showalter said.

Teens usually record the challenges and then post pictures or video to social media for proof or attention. One YouTube video posted of the challenge from a few years ago has nearly 7 million views. That’s why doctors say it’s also important to be tapped into your kids’ social media.

Other well-known but dangerous challenges include the cinnamon challenge, which involves trying to swallow a tablespoon of cinnamon in less than a minute. That can cause major lung damage. Also popular is the gallon-of-milk challenge, which involves attempting to drink one gallon of milk in one hour. That usually results in vomiting.

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