Kids have been doing stupid things on a dare for ages. In the 1930s, goldfish swallowing was all the rage. Nowadays teenagers are still swallowing live goldfish (just check YouTube), but they’re also engaging in dares of ever-increasing danger. The “Salt and Ice Challenge,” as it is commonly known, is another in a long line of popular food dares (see Cinnamon, Chubby Bunny, and water drinking).
It’s also one so dangerous that last summer, in Pittsburgh, an unnamed 12-year old boy sustained second degree burns to his back from participating in this strangely popular new fad.
Typically, the challenge requires the participant to coat an area of their skin with table salt (often their hand or arm), but it can even be their genitals. Next, they place a piece of ice on top of the salt and apply pressure. In some cases, they just squeeze the ice/salt in their hand. In other instances, a friend holds the ice against their skin for them. The challenge is to see how long they can stand the burning sensation that results from the mixture of salt and ice.
Adding salt to ice can drop its temperature to as low as – 17C°, resulting in permanent damage to skin, muscles, and bones including first, second, and third degree burns — think frostbite. One of the reasons the dare is so dangerous is because of the potential for nerve damage. Due to the numbing effects of ice, the participant is often unaware of the severity of the injuries until much later.
Peer pressure is a real concern here too, because the dare is often done in tandem among friends to see who can last the longest. Of course, the dare wouldn’t be complete without the requisite video uploaded to YouTube, Facebook, or other social media sites. Unfortunately, most of these videos don’t show the full danger of this dare, making the parent’s job of talking their children out of it extra hard.
With social media taking up more and more of our teenagers’ time, driven by their desire to be in the spotlight or to experience a Warholian “15 minutes of fame,” these kinds of dangerous dares are ever more pervasive and encroaching on the lives of our children. Please take the time to talk to your teen about the dangers of peer pressure and help them find a way to shine without getting burned by ill conceived dares such as the salt and ice challenge.