Polar Vortex PSA: Throw Boiling Water At Your Own Risk

People in the Midwest are learning the hard way that throwing boiling water can lead to seriously painful burns.

Not to kill the mood, but maybe don’t try this at home.

People all over the frigid Midwest are trying the viral trick of throwing boiling water into the air in hopes it turns into steam or snow because of the subzero temperatures sweeping the region this week. Videos everywhere show people standing outside and chucking a pot of water that — more often than not — evaporates or freezes before it hits the ground.

But as fun as the trick looks, there can be painful consequences.

On Wednesday, YouTuber Chris Kieger uploaded a video showing his bungled attempt at the boiling water challenge. Kieger, wearing only slippers and shorts, burned himself after some of the boiling water hit him instead of turning into steam.

“The air was cold, my calf was scalding,” he wrote in the video’s caption.

These are just the fails on social media. Loyola University Medical Center near Chicago told HuffPost that since the polar vortex hit this week, its burn unit has seen four cases of injuries due to the boiling water challenge. Regions Hospital in St. Paul, Minnesota, said its emergency room saw at least two cases of the viral challenge gone wrong within 24 hours this week.

Josie, a 12-year-old from Cincinnati, attempted the challenge Thursday with her mom when the water hit the left side of her face. Josie told HuffPost she was completely clothed with her mom’s coat and hood but might have filled the pot with too much water.

Josie tried a cold compress before going to Children’s Hospital to be stabilized, then transferring to a Shriners burn clinic, where she was diagnosed with second-degree burns. She said she’s still dealing with blisters but is taking medication and feels much better now.

“I probably won’t do it again,” she said.

Josie said part of the reason she wanted to try the challenge is that she has seen it everywhere and this isn’t the first winter people have tried it. The challenge was just as popular five years ago, when the last serious polar vortex swept through the Midwest.

In 2014, The Los Angeles Times said that at least 50 people on social media reported burning either themselves or their friends after attempting the challenge. There was also a YouTube video at the time of two Chicagoans burning themselves after throwing hot water.

“Most of the water did turn to snow … but some of it landed on my girlfriend’s arm and my crotch,” Micah Uetricht wrote in his video’s caption. “And the snow landed on a guy walking his dog down the street, which led me to issue the worst apology ever.”

So be a little more cautious, folks. Boiling water still burns, even if it’s cold outside.

“Just don’t do it,” Josie said. “If you’re going to do it, don’t use a pot, and don’t hold it in a way that’s obviously not going to work.”

This story has been updated to include comments from Josie.

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