“Challenge yourself!” You’ve heard it a million times, and it’s usually a good thing. Whether it’s academic, professional, or personal, completing a challenge can come with great satisfaction. Some challenges, however, need to be more carefully considered. With certain “challenges” going viral on the Internet, it’s important to separate the fun ones from those that come with substantial risks. Below, Lurie Children’s trauma coordinator Corinne Sadecki-Lund, RN, BSN, discusses several challenges that your kids should not be competing in.
The Cinnamon Challenge
The cinnamon challenge involves eating a spoonful of cinnamon in under 60 seconds without taking a drink. Like each of these challenges, the person competing is filmed and their video is posted to social media so that others can like, share, and try it for themselves.
Cinnamon might sound like an innocent spice for snickerdoodles and hot chocolate, but eating it plain will definitely not satisfy your sweet tooth. “Cinnamon coats and dries the mouth and throat, which leads to coughing, gagging, or vomiting,” Corinne says. “If the cinnamon is inhaled, a severe situation might lead to a risk for pneumonia or a collapsed lung. It can definitely cause long-term damage.”
The Kylie Jenner Lip Challenge
This challenge is one that is especially popular among adolescent girls. It involves placing lips in a shot glass, and sucking all the air out of the glass in order to more closely resemble TV star Kylie Jenner.
Although this challenge carries less risk for permanent damage, it still has its dangers. The challenge could lead to broken blood vessels, causing a bad lip – defeating the purpose for those who are using it for vanity. “Additionally, the glass could break under pressure,” Corinne says. “And that would lead to cuts and lacerations that require stitches – maybe even leaving a facial scar.”
The Pass-Out Challenge
The pass-out challenge is one of the riskiest ones out there. YouTube videos show kids hyperventilating for around 20 seconds, or until they feel lightheaded. Then, they either hold their breath or have friends hold them up against a wall by their neck. The lack of blood flow will quickly lead to unconsciousness. ‘’
“Really short term, even just doing this once, could lead to hypoxic seizures,” Corinne says. Seizures can also cause significant trauma, depending on where the contester falls and his or her surroundings. “Doing it over and over again comes with the risk of chronic seizures, a stroke or a collapsed lung,” she adds. “These are all immediate life threats that need to be taken to the emergency department.”
The Salt & Ice Challenge
To conduct this challenge, salt is spread across the forearm and ice is placed on the salt. The challenge is to withstand the pain that this causes for as long as possible.
“The effects of this mimic frostbite,” Corinne says. “Second or third degree burns could cause permanent nerve damage.” Nerve damage would involve loss of sensation and ability to grow hair, and the skin would lose its protective quality. Scar tissue buildup is also a concern. Corinne also notes that “the younger the child is, the thinner their skin is, making it much easier to injure themselves.”
The Detergent Pod Challenge
Most popular, as of late, is the detergent pod challenge, in which one is challenged to eat a pod of laundry detergent. Immediately, this can cause vomiting, lethargy, gasping, and esophageal burns. If inhaled, these effects can be even greater.
“The chemicals in the detergent pods can depress the central nervous system,” Corinne says. “So in addition to respiratory and GI discomfort, the more serious risks include seizures, comas, or brain death. Chemical burns could mean a permanent feeding tube or loss of taste.” She also adds, that the younger and smaller the child is, the greater the toxicity.
These Internet challenges serve as tools for entertainment and attention for the kids who post them online to social media; however, the dangers typically outweigh those benefits. Corinne says it’s important to monitor all of your kids’ online activity – whether that’s YouTube, Snapchat, or something else. And that includes not only what they’re posting, but what they’re viewing as well. Most parents don’t know that their kids are doing this, so monitoring and finding out what your kids are up to is the first step.
“Check what they’re watching and posting, and then have a conversation about it,” Corinne says. “Be open and make sure they know not to replicate everything they see.” She says that if the challenge is really something that can be done for fun, the whole family should be able to do it. If it’s not fun or doable for the whole family, or if you feel like you have to hide your activity, you probably shouldn’t be doing it.
A great concern for some parents is violating their kids’ privacy. Checking their phones, their browser history, limiting their screen time and keeping their doors open all have that affect to some degree. However, it’s more important that your children aren’t engaging in dangerous activities prompted to them by others. You might have to be the bad cop every once in a while, but safety comes first.