Eastern Iowa child scarred by 'Salt and Ice' internet challenge

    A 12-year-old joined her friends on Monday night to try the "salt and ice" internet challenge, ending up with second- and third-degree burns. (Photo courtesy of girl's family, who asked to remain private)

    IOWA CITY, Iowa (KGAN) - An Eastern Iowa mother is warning other parents about the "salt and ice" challenge. Monday night, her 12-year-old daughter was spending the night at her best friend's house when she got a phone call she didn't want to hear.

    "I got woken up at 11 p.m. saying 'you need to take your daughter to the E.R.,'" said the mother, who at the request of her daughter asked to remain private. Her daughter and friends had tried an internet challenge that involved putting snow and table salt on their arms, to see who could stand it the longest. The ice and salt formed a chemical reaction that induced frostbite, giving the girl and her friends second- and third-degree burns.

    "No mother, father, or caretaker should have to have their child go through that," said the mother.

    They ended up at the Burn Prevention Treatment Center at the University of Iowa. The center's director, Dr. Tom Granchi, says he's seen a couple of incidents involving this challenge recently.

    "You add salt to water, and it causes water to freeze at a much lower temperature," said Dr. Granchi. "There's an interesting phenomenon and they want to experiment with it, and unfortunately their bodies become a chemistry lab and it can be dangerous."

    Tuesday, the mother has an appointment at the University to see if her daughter's arm will require a skin graft. She shared her daughter's story on Facebook to warn other parents and immediately faced backlash, with negative comments directed at her parenting, and calling her child "stupid."

    "They're saying that they should know better, but they don't," said the mother. "They're talking about 12-year-old kids."

    Dr. Scott Eilers, a clinical psychologist at Mercy Family Counseling in Cedar Rapids, says when it comes to brain development, kids truly may not know better.

    "The part of your brain that helps you engage in critical thinking and anticipates the consequences of your actions doesn't finish growing and developing until you're 25-years-old," said Dr. Eilers. "It is physically harder for them to make choices that are in their own best interest."

    The mother is pleading parents to show their kids the negative consequences of these challenges.

    "Sitting down and sharing some of these stories and the things that can happen, because I don't know that they always see the follow-through of that," said the mother. "They might see who wins the challenge, but they don't see an hour after, that this is what can present."

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