A game called the “eraser challenge” is spreading via social media and could be harmful to your children.
According to CBS News, the challenge is a “dare” where kids use erasers to rub away the skin on their arms, often while reciting the alphabet or other phrases.
Though the game has been going around for about a year, it can cause serious damage according to some doctors.
“The eraser challenge may cause pain, burns to the skin, scarring, local infections,” said Dr. Michael Cooper, who directs the Burn Center at Staten Island University Hospital, in New York City.
With such injuries, “in severe though rare cases, life-threatening sepsis, gangrene and loss of limb may occur,” he noted.
A Statesville, N. C. middle school posted a warning to their Facebook page about the eraser challenge.
“Kids are rubbing and eraser acros their skin while having to do or say something,” East Iredell Middle School said in the post. “It’s causing serious burns and we’ve seen several cases of this.”
Dr. Cooper agreed. “The eraser challenge may appear harmless and an innocent show of bravado,” Cooper said. “However, the consequences may be lifelong disfigurement and even death, and like other ‘challenges,’ should be avoided.”
Dr. Robert Glatter, also in New York City, is an emergency physician at Lenox Hill Hospital. The risk of severe infections from the eraser challenge is a concern according to Glatter.
“Bacteria and dead skin cells can colonize erasers which have been rubbed on skin,” he explained. “Erasers, which can be made of synthetic materials such as vinyl, plastics and synthetic rubber, have crevices that provide a warm and moist environment for bacteria to thrive. People also put erasers in their mouths, making them a set-up for polymicrobial infections that may be challenging to treat.”
Glatter states that parental involvement and monitoring is essential. “Parents need to have a frank discussion with their children about the dangers associated with the eraser challenge,” he said. “If you find unexplained abrasions or wounds on your child’s arms or legs, it’s vital to ask them if they have been engaged in this challenge.”
In one YouTube video, a boy shows marks on both of his hands where he has rubbed his skin raw. He puts antiseptic on one of the injuries, and at one point in the video an adult appears to see the boy and walk by him.
However, the eraser challenge isn’t the only harmful social media trend out there.
“The advent of social media, and the endless search for recognition and attention has made posting videos while performing dangerous and senseless acts both commonplace and widespread,” Glatter said.
“The ‘fire challenge’ causes self-inflicted, life-threatening flame burns from igniting lighter fluid or alcohol poured on the skin,” Cooper explained. “And, recently, a teenager was severely injured when he jumped into a lake he knew contained alligators.”
Glatter said, “it’s simple: erasers belong on paper, not on your skin.”