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What You Should Know About The 'Eraser Challenge,' A Potentially Harmful Trend


Another potentially dangerous trend: the "eraser challenge." That's where you vigorously rub an eraser on your skin while reciting a certain phrase or the alphabet. The results can be disfiguring or worse. 

Dr. Barbara Durso, a pediatrician with Parkland Hospital System, says the phenomenon of doing something silly or self-harming isn't new, but the eraser challenge could lead to a serious infection. 

Interview Highlights: 

What motivates people to take the eraser challenge: “It’s a way of demonstrating their mental or physical toughness to other people. This phenomenon of doing something goofy or self-injurious isn’t really new. When you think about stuffing bodies into a telephone booth back in the '50s or how many raw goldfish could you eat, challenges like this have been around for a long time. It’s just one of the newer ones.”

How dangerous is the eraser challenge: “Potentially, it can be pretty harmful because you are inflicting an injury on your skin and you can introduce bacteria into your skin and it can lead to an infection. The material of the eraser is porous and can contain bacteria. Plus, when you think about kids and pencils, they stick pencils in their mouth. They play with them, so they have lots of bacteria on them and then now you’re breaking the skin and introducing bacteria into a place where it doesn’t belong.”

How bad can the results be? “I think for most people, it can leave a scar and that’s a pretty common injury. Infections are less common, but very serious when they happen.”

Signs of the eraser challenge: “Usually it’s going to be on the forearm…or the back of the hand. You’ll see a linear, rectangular shaped wound. The appearance is not anything that would like a natural rash. This has very clear edges and geometric shapes, so it doesn’t look natural.”

Treatment: "Most of the time, if there’s no blistering or draining from the wound, if the skin’s just red, you can keep it clean with soap and water and keep it covered. But if you see drainage from the wound, the skin looks open, if it looks like there’s redness spreading away from the wound, then you definitely need to see the doctor about that.”

What concerns you most about the eraser challenge? “This kind of behavior could lead to self-injury.  But also that it could lead to more dangerous stunts. So, a variation of the eraser challenge is not only do you rub your skin until it’s broken basically. Then you take hand sanitizer (and pour it on the wound) and these things can escalate. Parents hear things like this and think ‘Oh who would do that?’ Kids will do all kinds of things because they don’t think about long term consequences. Their brains just aren’t developed to think that way."

For more information:

Sam Baker is KERA's senior editor and local host for Morning Edition. The native of Beaumont, Texas, also edits and produces radio commentaries and Vital Signs, a series that's part of the station's Breakthroughs initiative. He also was the longtime host of KERA 13’s Emmy Award-winning public affairs program On the Record. He also won an Emmy in 2008 for KERA’s Sharing the Power: A Voter’s Voice Special, and has earned honors from the Associated Press and the Public Radio News Directors Inc.