A new winter challenge circulating online is sending people to the hospital with scald burns, doctors in the U.S. say.
The “boiling water challenge” has gone viral in recent weeks as a polar vortex sent temperatures plummeting to several degrees below zero throughout much of the Midwest and Northeast. People participating in the challenge throw boiling water into the air and watch it freeze.
Boiling water will freeze and turn to snow in mid-air at temperatures of -5 degrees and colder.
According to CNN, Chicago’s Loyola University Medical Center treated eight people for scald burns of various degrees since the polar vortex moved into the area in recent days. Doctors at hospitals in Iowa and Minnesota also reported treating people who suffered scald burns while attempting the boiling water challenge.
Doctors say the boiling water challenge left people with scald burns of varying degrees to their hands, arms and face.
The challenge poses risks not only to the person throwing the water into the air, but to anyone nearby filming the challenge or simply watching it.
One physician told CNN that some parents take their children outside to do the challenge and then “the kids get kind of excited and step in the way, and the parents end up throwing the water on them.”
In other instances, people have thrown boiling water in the air and a gust of wind blows it back at them, leaving them with scald burns on their face.
In addition to scald burns, people participating in the challenge may also suffer from frostbite in extremely cold temperatures on any part of their exposed skin. Water that gets on bare skin at those temperatures will accelerate injuries, doctors warn.
The warning comes at an appropriate time. The week of Feb. 3-9 is observed as National Burn Awareness Week in the U.S., and the focus this year is on scald burns.