Hospital saw many “boiling water challenge” injuries during polar vortex

It’s hard to believe that just a week ago I was cursing my front room thermostat, willing it to go above 59 degrees. But my house was in a losing battle against the polar vortex that raged outside, dropping the Chicago temperature to record low levels.

I’ve been through this before (2014, most recently), and believe me, I know the projects. This time I tried to craft an arctic cocktail. And I confess, I have thrown boiling water in the air to watch it instantly turn into steam. I am far from science-minded, but that always seems like an easy kitchen-based experiment I can get behind, to underscore, “Jesus, it’s really fucking cold.”

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But it turns out myself and my children were among the lucky ones. The Chicago Sun-Times reports that eight people doing the boiling-water-in-the-frozen-air experiment “ended up at Loyola Medicine’s Burn Center, a spokesman for the Maywood hospital said Wednesday.” Those injured ranged in age from 3 to 53. Just guessing that if you throw the boiling water in the air and a gust of wind comes up from the wrong direction, that could be pretty painful for you and your fellow experimenters.

According to the Sun-Times, Loyola burn surgeon Dr. Arthur Sanford stated emphatically, “We strongly warn people to not perform the boiling water challenge. There is no safe way to do it.” With any luck, we won’t see another polar vortex for awhile anyway, but I will definitely keep that in mind if one shows up. I’ll just try for that frozen cocktail again.

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Gwen Ihnat

Gwen Ihnat is the Editorial Coordinator for The A.V. Club.