‘Boiling water challenge’: Stop throwing hot water in cold air, doctors warn

As Canada goes through its cold snap with snowstorms, ice pellets and freezing temperatures, some experts are warning people of the boiling water challenge.

The challenge, which appears to turn boiling hot water into “snow” or steam in freezing temperatures, is sending some to hospital with severe burns. While the challenge seems straightforward or safe to those doing it, some are getting splashed back with hot, boiling water.

Global News

Last week, during Chicago’s polar vortex, eight people taking part in the challenge, were admitted to the Loyola Medicine’s Burn Center.

“We strongly warn people to not perform the boiling water challenge,” burn surgeon Dr. Arthur Sanford told the Chicago Sun-Times. “There is no safe way to do it.”

Sanford told ABC 7 that seven of the victims had blisters and one woman needed further surgery because the burns were too deep.

The youngest person admitted with burns was only three years old, Sanford said, adding the child was a bystander.

“It’s adults that are doing it… It’s kids that are doing it. It’s kids that are standing next to adults,” he continued.

And while people may cover up with jackets or winter accessories, Sanford argued this doesn’t mean you’ll be safe from potential burns. If the hot water gets through your clothes, you could be more severely injured, he explained.

Cold weather is bringing out the creative side in others. Reports show people living through a polar vortex are shooting water guns with boiling water, going outside with wet hair and watching a bowl of hot noodles freeze.

Speaking with CNN, Angie Whitley, the clinical-care supervisor at the Hennepin Healthcare’s burn center in Minneapolis, said people are not considering how windy it actually is.

“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,” she said.

Boiling water burns

According to Health Canada, it only takes seconds to get burned by boiling water, and children’s skin, in particular, burns easily.

If you or your child experience burns, contact a health professional right away.

If your burn turns into a blister, you should also seek medical help immediately, the National Health Service in the U.K. noted.

“The blister will probably remain intact, although some burns units at hospitals follow a policy of deroofing blisters. Deroofing means removing the top layer of skin from the blister,” the site stated. “Expert opinion is divided over the management of blisters that are caused by burns. But it’s recommended that you should not burst any blisters yourself.”

The challenge is tempting

Health experts agree the boiling water challenge is tempting and maybe even a fun science experiment. But it’s not always safe.

IFL Science reported the challenge is one way to experiment with the Mpemba effect, the idea that hot water can freeze faster than cold water.

“Throwing cold water into the air won’t work as it won’t freeze in time, however, boiling hot water will as its temperature is able to drop significantly faster, turning it into a snow-like mist,” the site noted.

While scientists don’t know why this snow-like mist appears, the site added one theory which suggested hot water has a faster rate of evaporation.

“(In turn) reducing the volume left to freeze.”

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