'Salt and ice challenge' leaves Iowa kids with severe burns

Published: Jan. 24, 2019 at 11:03 PM CST
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Two eastern Iowa kids are recovering from severe burns after trying a viral online trend.

It's called the "salt and ice challenge." Participants put table salt on exposed skin, add an ice cube, and then hold it there as long as they can tolerate the pain.

Tristen Tinnes, a Sigourney 15-year-old, tried it with a group of friends, Monday. The group raised the stakes by using snow and the results were pretty gruesome.

"For me, I didn't really know what it was," said Tinnes. "I just want to say, like, it's not smart— obviously."

The challenge left Tinnes and one other with second and third-degree burns on their forearms. The two may need skin grafts to repair the damage.

Tinnes' mother, Fanny Hartwig, was taking care of her son during what had become a physically and emotionally painful ordeal.

"We've talked a lot about it in three days," said Hartwig. "These 'challenges' are there, I feel, to make children fail. Then, the world tells them— degrades them. My son is a lot smarter than what he did."

Starting about six years ago, plenty of others have taken the salt and ice challenge, posting viral video reactions online. Some of the clips had garnered millions of views.

"It's a chemistry experiment on your own skin," said Dr. Thomas Granchi, the director of University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics Burn Treatment Center.

Granchi warned challenge participants are basically giving themselves frostbite. The added salt lowers the freezing temp for water. Things can get really cold really fast.

"I certainly admire their curiosity," said Granchi. "But, there are chemistry labs to study chemistry. Don't turn your body into a chemistry lab."

Tinnes said he'd learned his lesson. He felt viral online trends could stay online after the salt and ice challenge left its mark on him.

Tinnes will find out next week if he needs skin grafting. He may have scarring and will likely need to be more careful with the wounded area in cold and sunny weather, in the future.