Hot Water Challenge: Why You Shouldn't Pour Boiling Water On Someone

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Why on Earth would you pour boiling water on someone as a prank? (Photo: Shutterstock)

There are stupid challenges. Then there are really stupid challenges. And then there is the Hot Water Challenge. Why on Earth would you think that pouring boiling water on someone or drinking boiling water through a straw would somehow not be a very bad idea?

It is not clear how many people have been foolish enough to even try this challenge. But there have already been some victims such as the 15-year-old in this ABC 10 News report:

As you can see, the teen was left with severe burns after his “friend” apparently poured boiling hot water on him as a prank. Sorry but a prank is putting a “kick me” sign on your back, filling your office with rutabagas, or replacing your underwear with lettuce. It is not doing something that lands you in the hospital and could potentially scar you for life and even kill you.

And your friends need to understand simple science: very hot liquids can scald you, badly damaging your skin and other body tissues. Otherwise, you need to get new friends.

There is no reason boiling water should go anywhere near your skin or mouth. Obviously, the risk and speed of injury increases as the temperature of the water increases. Avoid touching any water that is hotter than 120º Fahrenheit, which can cause a third degree burn after only 5 minutes of contact. While the exact timing may vary from person to person, contact with 155º F water can cause a third degree burn in just 1 second, 140º F in 3 seconds, and 130º in about 10 seconds. If you want to take a bath, keep the water much cooler, below 100º F. A bath with hotter water becomes less a bath and more a soup with you as an ingredient. 

If you have a science-impaired friend who burns you with a hot liquid, immediately separate yourself from the hot liquid and apply cool running water to the area for at least 20 minutes. But don’t submerge yourself in cold water, especially if your burn affects a large part of your body, because you don’t want to lose too much body heat. Don’t apply ice, lotion, or, for Pete’s sake, butter or oil to the affected area, which can make things even worse. Remove clothing and jewelry around the affected area unless it is stuck to the burn. Yanking or tearing anything away from the burn site is never a good idea. Try protecting the area by covering it with moist bandages or a clean cloth but don’t wrap the area too tightly and risk further damage and cutting off blood circulation. Oh, and call your doctor.

The other version of the hot water challenge is getting a person to drink really hot water through a straw, which ended up killing an 8-year old girl:

If you search for Hot Water Challenge on Youtube and various social media outlets, you will find a number of videos of people supposedly undergoing the Hot Water Challenge. Videos on social media are a bit like body parts in Los Angeles and Hollywood. You can’t quite tell what is really real. Some people may be pretending that they are dousing themselves or others with boiling hot water or drinking it through a straw. You can’t quite verify the temperature of the water being used.

Nonetheless, even fake actions can result in people imitating with real actions. Based on the news reports at least some people are using legitimate boiling water and suffering the consequences. Clearly, some people are forgetting the adage, if life gives you boiling hot water, you don’t pour it on yourself or drink it through a straw just because others seem to be doing so.

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