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'Salt and Ice Challenge' burns kids

| Friday, June 29, 2012, 9:33 p.m.
Dr. Ariel Aballay, director of the West Penn Hospital Burn Center, talks to the media on Friday, June 29, 2012, about an unidentified local boy who suffered second-degree burns in the 'Salt and Ice Challenge.' The boy suffered the burns (shown in the photos behind Dr. Aballay) when, on a dare, friends put salt topped by ice on his back, causing the chemical reaction that burned him. James Knox | Tribune-Review
Dr. Ariel Aballay, director of the West Penn Hospital Burn Center, talks to the media Friday, June 29, 2012, about an unidentified local boy who suffered second-degree burns in the 'Salt and Ice Challenge.' The boy suffered the burns (shown in the photos behind Dr. Aballay) when, on a dare, friends put salt topped by ice on his back, causing the chemical reaction that burned him. James Knox | Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Salt and ice might seem harmless, but together, they're quite dangerous.

West Penn Allegheny Health System officials warned parents and children on Friday about the danger of a stunt popularized on YouTube after a Pittsburgh boy, 12, suffered second-degree cold burns on his back last week.

What's known as the “Salt and Ice Challenge” — sometimes done on a dare — involves putting salt on the skin and pressing an ice cube into it. The combination causes a chemical reaction that can begin burning the skin almost immediately. The burn is similar to frostbite.

“At first it was just really, really red,” said the boy's mother, who declined to be identified. “I didn't realize that burns continue to burn. He was in a lot of pain.”

The boy was treated in West Penn Hospital's outpatient burn center in Bloomfield, where a news conference was held to draw attention to the dangers of the practice.

Dr. Ariel Aballay, a burn specialist at West Penn, said he hopes the boy's misfortune will benefit others and prompt parents to talk with their children about the dangers of the “challenge.”

“There are risks involved with this,” he said.

The hospital said Allegheny County police are investigating the incident that led to the boy's injuries. Police could not be reached for comment.

Aballay said the boy's case was the first he had seen locally.

The boy's burns blistered, and he faces several months of recovery.

“I just really want parents to be aware that a lot of kids are doing this,” his mother said. “They think it's not their kid. They're wrong.”

A quick search for “Salt and Ice Challenge” on YouTube turns up more than 10,000 results, some with more than a million views.

The stunt is not the first of its ilk. Health officials also have warned parents about the “Cinnamon Challenge” — trying to eat a tablespoon of cinnamon without drinking water — and the “Skittles Challenge” — putting an entire bag of the candy in your mouth and trying to eat it at once.

Megan Guza is a staff writer for Trib Total Media . She can be reached at 412-380-5644 or mguza@tribweb.com.

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