It seems like every year, teenagers find a new viral “challenge” to partake in. Remember planking? Or the invisible step challenge? And could anyone forget the Tide Pod challenge? The latest teen fad to concern parents is the so-called “condom challenge” wherein teens film themselves snorting condoms and then post the videos to social media.
Yep, you read that right: For the challenge, a teen will supposedly inhale a condom through a nostril and pull it out of their mouth. Not only does that sound really gross (and like the waste of a perfectly good condom!), it is—of course—dangerous.
But here’s the good news: It’s unclear how many teens are actually trying the condom challenge, meaning it’s not really a “viral challenge” that we need to worry about at present. The Daily Beast noted that most of the YouTube videos about the condom challenge were posted five to 10 years ago. The Washington Post has a breakdown of how the story went viral as news despite the videos being, well, old. The Post reports that the last reported condom inhalation incident, according to the U.S. Poison Control Centers, was in 2014, and Snopes calls the story “mostly false.”
Let’s hope it’s a fad of the past, in that case. If the media attention—our initial reporting on this included—has had the unfortunate result of piquing a renewed interest in this risky challenge, however, here’s what you should know about it.
Your nose is not designed for things to go up it, and condoms are no exception.
“It’s not generally a good idea to put anything in your nose that doesn’t belong there,” Dr. David Hiltzik, director of otolaryngology at Staten Island University Hospital in New York, told Live Science in a 2017 interview about the dangers of snorting chocolate powder.
Anything snorted up the nose can irritate the nose, throat and lungs, all of which can be potentially dangerous. (The exception here would be medication prescribed by your doctor, such as a nasal spray for allergies.)
Condoms could also get stuck inside your lungs. Sound farfetched? A 27-year-old woman who accidentally inhaled a condom during sexual activity ended up with a collapsed lung.
In other words: yikes.
Other Dangerous Challenges To Go Viral
Unfortunately, this is not the only dangerous challenge to get a lot of attention.
Earlier this year, kids were taking part in the Tide Pod challenge, which involved teens filming themselves eating Tide laundry detergent pods.
Of course, the pods are not safe for consumption and can cause stomach problems, shortness of breath and even coma or death.
Let’s not forget the eraser challenge, where kids challenged each other to rub a pencil eraser on their arms while reciting the ABCs. Whoever lasted the longest—and likely ended up with the worst wounds—would win.
Stephen Enriquez teaches drug and alcohol prevention techniques for parents in the San Antonio, Texas area, and he has started incorporating lessons about these dangerous challenges so that parents are aware and can watch out for signs that their kids may be engaging in unhealthy behavior. The Washington Post points to Enriquez’ presentation—which include the condom challenge—as helping to set this story in viral motion.
The organization he works for told the Post that they’ve been giving these presentations for years.
“The focus of our presentations is not about this challenge but rather a combination of issues that teens ‘may’ at one point be exposed to,” a spokesperson said to the Post.
“These days our teens are doing everything for likes, views and subscribers,” Enriquez told KABB. “As graphic as it is, we have to show parents because teens are going online looking for challenges and recreating them.”
They may not want to hear it, but if you have teens in your life, it’s worth having a chat with them about skipping these viral trends.
Instead? Why not point them to some of the more positive challenges that have gone viral. The ice bucket challenge is one example (though certainly a chilly one). The bottle flipping challenge—where you flip a half-empty water bottle, trying to land it right-side up—another. Likewise for the step challenge.
Then there’s the teen who started a mini-movement after she donated her prom dress via Twitter—and other teenage girls followed suit.
— xui (@DONOTDISTURBXUI) May 22, 2016