The "Vacuum Challenge" is the latest gaining attention online, but experts are warning what can happen to kids trying it.

By Anna Halkidis
Yeji Kim

June 20, 2019

Viral challenges are constantly making their rounds on social media—some are harmless, but others can potentially lead to devastating consequences. There’s been the Tide pod challenge, which requires participants to put chemical-filled pods in their mouth, and the 48-hour one urging kids to vanish without any contact for two days. 

The latest gaining attention on social media? It’s called the "Vacuum Challenge"—also referred to as the trash bag challenge or bin bag challenge—and it involves a plastic trash bag and a vacuum cleaner minus any cleaning. Participants put their entire body in a trash bag (usually with their heads poking out) along with the vacuum hose. Another person turns on the vacuum cleaner and the suction removes the air from the bag. The bag becomes so tight, some participants topple over to the side.

Seriously, just type #vacuumchallenge on social media, and the videos pop up in numbers. Some of them have thousands of views.

In some cases, parents are the ones hitting the on switch and their little ones usually start laughing. But although these kids are seen chuckling in the videos, experts aren’t joining in on the joke.

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“While this challenge may appear fun and seem harmless, I don’t recommend trying this at home,” says Stephanie Flohr, trauma program manager at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids, Michigan. “If the bag ends up over the face, this quickly becomes potentially very dangerous and can lead to a lack of oxygen supply to the brain. This can lead to life-altering and lasting complications, such as memory problems, speech problems, or seizures amongst other symptoms—up to even death.”

Some people are also attempting this challenge on their own, which can be even more dangerous. “Once the vacuum is sealed inside the bag, it can be very difficult to escape as you are unable to move your arms or legs,” adds Flohr. They could remain in that position until help shows up.

So like many challenges before this one, it might be best to avoid it altogether.

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