Every once in a while a viral internet challenge comes along that we just can’t believe anyone is actually trying. And then someone tries it.
This week, it’s Indianapolis 15-year-old Kyland Clark, who suffered second-degree burns after a friend reportedly doused him in hot water as part of the #hotwaterchallenge. Haven’t heard of it? The online fright dares people to pour hot water on themselves or others, or drink it through a straw. Which absolutely no one should actually do. (And here we thought the hot pepper challenge was bad.)
Clark and his friend had been looking up the challenge online. (Hot water challenge videos can be found just about everywhere, from Instagram to Twitter to YouTube, although the temperature of the water in some of the videos is up for debate.) When Clark later fell asleep, his friend took it upon himself to enact the challenge as a joke. “I looked down at my chest, and my skin just fell off my chest,” he told Fox59. Not so funny now, huh?
Clark told Fox59 that skin was peeling off his arm and face, too; he ended up in the hospital for a week to treat burns on his back, chest, and face. “To see my baby all burned up like that—it was heartbreaking,” his mother, Andrea, said.
Second-degree burns involve the first two layers of skin, the epidermis and dermis, according to the Mayo Clinic. These burns can blister and cause severe pain. They’re the kind of thing most of us try to avoid—by taking tried-and-true burn prevention steps like turning the handles of pots and pans toward the back of the stove, keeping hot liquids out of reach of kids and pets, and cautiously dipping a toe into a hot bath or Jacuzzi before jumping in. We’re talking common sense here.
Luckily, Clark’s burns are expected to heal just fine. But the hot water challenge has led to at least one death. Last year—yes, this has been going on that long—Ki’ari Pope, an 8-year-old Florida girl, died after drinking boiling water through a straw after watching YouTube videos of the hot water challenge.
Should you happen to accidentally burn yourself with hot water, hold the affected area under cool running water or wrap it with a cool, wet compress. Don’t use cold water or ice to lower the temperature of a burn, since that could worsen the damage, according to the Mayo Clinic. Once a burn is fully cooled, apply a moisturizing lotion (like aloe), cover the area loosely with sterile gauze, and take an over-the-counter pain reliever if you’re in discomfort.
See a doctor right away if you have burns covering a large area of your body, if there are burns in your airway (such as from drinking boiling water), or if a burn doesn’t heal in two weeks or starts to show signs of infection like oozing or increased swelling.
If you’re thinking about attempting the hot water challenge—or you have a friend egging you on—stop right there. “If your friends are telling you to do this, they are not good friends,” Ed Bartkus, MD, of Indiana University Health, told Fox59.