Please Stop Doing the Boiling Water Challenge: Hospitals

Henrietta Strickland
February 10, 2019

They show people in parts of the US hit by the polar vortex and record low temperatures throwing hot water into the air and watching it turn to ice crystals in the freezing air.

That lesson was learnt the hard way during a recent experiment in Chicago, which saw a family, a group of eight people ranging in age from just three to 53, hospitalized at Loyola Medicine's Burn Center. Vicik cited injuries to the "feet, arms, hands, face, and varying degrees of burns, as well", in her incident report. The Loyola University wasn't the lone medical facility in the MidWest to accept "Boiling Water" dimwits.

The University of Iowa Burn Treatment Center in Iowa City, and Hennepin Healthcare in Minneapolis also reported admitting patients with burn injuries caused by the challenge. When it's 20 below outside, the devil comes in many shapes and sizes.

Dr Arthur Sanford, a trauma surgeon, warned people not to perform the stunt as "there is no safe way to do it".

"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", said Angie Whitley, clinical care supervisor at the Hennepin Healthcare burn center.

He added it was not just the people throwing the water who are getting hurt.

The polar vortex which normally pushes strong winds around the northern pole has sent an icy blast southwards in the last couple of weeks.

Having any bare skin in weather that cold is its own problem, because it poses a risk of frostbite. He throws a pan of boiling water into the air but it drifts onto his leg, scalding him. While airborne frozen water can create pretty patterns, it can also land on people while it's boiling hot. "That's a bigger risk, actually".

The boiling water challenge might appear to instantly turn the water to clouds of steam, but in fact, those clouds are made up of tiny ice crystals. But don't try it yourself.

"It's tempting to try", Schaider said.

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