A 12-year-old boy, who participated in a “salt-and-ice challenge” last weekend that he, his twin brother and friend learned about on Facebook and in watching You Tube videos sustained serious second-degree cold injuries on his back that required treatment at the West Penn Burn Center.
The unidentified youth lay on his stomach during a sleep-over at his house as his brother and a friend put salt in the form of a cross on his back, then put ice cubes atop the salt before applying pressure. The process causes almost immediate pain. The ill-advised challenge is to see how long you can withstand the pain.
Ariel Aballay, director of the Burn Center, held a news conference today to alert parents of the serious injuries the challenge can cause, noting that videos of people taking the challenge are well represented on You Tube. In just moments, the challenge can cause first-degree cold injuries of redness that can take a few days to heal. The Pittsburgh youth’s injuries caused severe blistering and require drug treatment with a lotion that must be applied four times a day for months. He is lot allowed to swim or go outside without a shirt and even must have his back washed if he sweats for the rest of the summer.
“The injury is similar to frostbite that can result in mild cold injury but it also could increase in severity based on the time the ice is applied,” Dr. Aballay said. “The longer, the more serious the injury. This patient went for a few minutes, but there have been cases that went for six or seven minutes that resulted in third-degree injuries.
“Hopefully his wound will heal” without scarring, he said.
His mother said her son withstood the challenge for 20 minutes, eventually losing any sense of pain or feeling. She asked that her name not be used, but stressed the need to let the public know the potential consequences of the challenge that many children and young adults are attempting.
Her twin sons and a friend undertook the challenge about 3 a.m. June 22. By the next afternoon, his skin had blistered, prompting his mother to take him to the emergency room, where doctors initially thought the injury would lead to scarring.
She returned him to the burn center on Monday for additional treatment.
“I want parents to go to Facebook and YouTube to be aware of it and all the other Internet challenges,” she said. “Kids are so impressionable and you can tell them no until you are blue in the face.”
She said she’s heard from others about the salt-and-ice challenge being used as a team initiation or being tried by other children. Children are participating in the challenge more than parents would ever suspect. When she saw the injury her son had on his back, she yelled at her sons but eventually panicked when the injury began blistering, with her son in constant pain and discomfort.