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When did scald burns become a prank?

UW Medicine | Newsroom | August 2, 2018

Actions of unthinking perpetrators land people in hospitals, with significant injuries.

Dr. Sam Mandell

The so-called “hot-water challenge” making news headlines leaves Dr. Sam Mandell incredulous.

“It’s really bad idea. People should know that hot water will burn you,” said Mandell, a UW Medicine surgeon and specialist in trauma, critical care and burns at Harborview Medical Center.

Recent news reports have shed light on what perpetrators characterize as a “prank” or a dare – throwing hot water on unsuspecting friends or daring someone to drink it through a straw. The victims, seriously scalded, are landing in hospital burn units.

“Water boils at 212 degrees Fahrenheit, which I think is a lot hotter than most people think. By comparison, you would perceive a 115-degree shower as very hot,” Mandell said. “But water doesn’t have to boil to burn you. For something like a splash, where 150-degree water lands on you, you can get a second- or third-degree burn in just a couple of seconds. If, as a prank, you throw water of that temperature on someone who’s asleep, they cannot react fast enough to avoid a burn.” MORE