Don’t. Light. Yourself. On. Fire. - Crozer-Keystone Health System - PA

Published on August 05, 2014

Don’t. Light. Yourself. On. Fire.

A common sense response to "The Fire Challenge."

The Fire Challenge

In the event of a medical emergency,
always call 9-1-1.

This may shock you, but the purpose of this article is to try to get teenagers to stop setting themselves on fire. Yes, really.

It’s the latest in-thing with teenagers, and it’s called "The Fire Challenge.” Kids are pouring flammable liquid on their torsos, such as alcohol or perfume, and then lighting it on fire. The idea is to put it out with water before you get injured, but guess what? A lot of kids don’t douse the flames quickly enough.

Being on fire for even just a few seconds can lead to permanent scarring and disfigurement, disability and, obviously, death.

“Young people don’t think about how devastating fire can be to their body,” said Mary Lou Patton, M.D., co-director of the Crozer Burn Treatment Center, who specializes in treating burns. “[They don’t think about] how a small flame can spread and damage your body and create permanent issues within seconds.”

“Not everyone is in the position to put the fire out right away,” said Dr. Patton. “Often instead of stopping, dropping and rolling, people run.” And that’s about the worst thing you can do.

Teens who have done the Fire Challenge have suffered serious third degree burns, in which all layers of the skin are burned. This can cause permanent tissue damage. Fat, muscle and even bone may be affected. When this happens, the affected skin needs to be stripped away and replaced.

“The skin has to be excised and skin needs to be taken from another part of the body, which means you have scarring in two spots,” said Dr. Patton. “The skin that you graft [from another part of the body] is not elastic as the original skin.

“I think what would be most difficult for young people is the [idea of] disfigurement.”

It’s easy for flames on the torso to jump up into the person’s face. But a scar is not nearly as big a deal as the loss of function in a badly burned body part – if your eyes are burned, you could lose vision. If your hands are burned, you could lose full use of them.

Dr. Patton warns that flammable clothing and even hair products can make the fire “jump” much more quickly than person expects.

Parents need to make sure that their children understand that fire is always dangerous, and children need to follow one simple rule:

Don’t light yourself on fire.

Related Locations

eNewsletter Signup

Our eNewsletters from Crozer-Keystone Health System help keep you up-to-date on your health and well being. View recent editions or sign up to receive our free eNewsletters.