The Deadly Danger Involved in the Latest Social Media Trend, the 'One Chip Challenge'

Experts are warning parents to talk to their children about this trend after the death of a teenager.

<p>MediaNews Group / The Mercury News via Getty Images </p>

MediaNews Group / The Mercury News via Getty Images

Fact checked by Sarah Scott

Sadly, we're reporting on yet another untimely death of a teenager after participating in a social media challenge. And this is one parents may not have yet heard about.

The Massachusetts teenager died after taking in the so-called 'One Chip Challenge.' It involves consuming a single tortilla chip made with some of the hottest ingredients a company called Paqui can get its hands on.

The challenge itself is nothing new. My husband took part in it back in 2020—and before that, celebrities like Kristen Bell tried eating the brutally spicy chip on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. But it has made a resurgence thanks to social media like TikTok, and it has caught the attention of teens, like 14-year-old Harris Wolobah of Worcester, Massachusetts.

Paqui advertises on its website that its chip was created using the Carolina Reaper Pepper and Naga Viper Pepper “for a truly twisted experience.” Importantly, the company warns to keep the chip out of reach of children, and that it is intended for adult consumption only. The site also encourages people to “seek medical assistance should you experience difficulty breathing, fainting, or extended nausea.”

As CBS News Boston reports, in Wolobah’s case, his mom, Lois received a call from the nurse at Doherty High School on Friday, September 1, 2023, after her son fainted. He had eaten the chip a friend gave him, according to the teen’s grief-stricken mother. When Wolobah fainted again, the family took him to the emergency room where he tragically passed away. His father Amos says he had no pre-existing conditions to his knowledge.

It’s important to note that no official cause of death has yet been released—and that Paqui has yet to publicly comment on the death.

The Dangers of the 'One Chip Challenge'

As Lauren Rice, MD, the Chief of Pediatric Emergency Medicine at Tufts Medical Center explains to Parents, the potential health risks of participating in this challenge are known to the medical community.

“The ‘One Chip Challenge’ involves eating a spicy tortilla chip and then trying to ‘tough out’ the discomfort caused by eating this chip by not drinking water for as long as possible,” she says, going on to warn, “Completing this spicy chip challenge is associated with a variety of health concerns. Symptoms after ingestion may range from mild discomfort, such as burning or tingling in the mouth, to severe abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting.” Too much hot pepper can be potentially hazardous to your health.

"Completing this spicy chip challenge is associated with a variety of health concerns. Symptoms after ingestion may range from mild discomfort, such as burning or tingling in the mouth, to severe abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting."

Lauren Rice, MD

Parents need to know that while scary symptoms like these typically happen right after or even while eating this chip, they can also last for hours or even days afterward. So stay vigilant if you believe your child may have attempted this challenge, or you notice any of these symptoms occurring.

“With repeated bouts of vomiting, there is a risk of causing damage to, or even rupture of, the esophagus, the feeding tube that carries food from the mouth to the stomach,” Dr. Rice elaborates. “People who participate in this challenge may also experience chest pain or palpitations. Another common side effect with this spicy chip challenge is coughing. Excessive coughing while the chip or pieces of the chip are being swallowed may lead to aspiration—unintentional inhalation into the airway and lungs—of the chip, or the spices on the chip. This can lead to irritation of the lungs, infection or inflammation in the lungs, or possibly trigger underlying conditions like asthma."

As Dr. Rice says, it’s “best to avoid these challenges completely.” But since these types of dangerous social media challenges are also “unlikely to become less popular any time soon,” here’s what to do if you or your child do participate in the 'One Chip Challenge:'

  • Wash the hands thoroughly.

  • Avoid touching the face.

  • Rinse the mouth out to avoid re-exposing yourself to harmful ingredients.

  • Watch out for worrisome symptoms like excessive or persistent coughing, difficulty breathing, and repeated vomiting.

  • Seek medical attention for these or any other worrisome signs.

Why Do Teens Take Part in Social Media Challenges?

As for why teens engage in potentially risky TikTok trends like the 'One Chip Challenge,' Sanam Hafeez, PsyD, a New York City neuropsychologist and director of Comprehend Consultation Services, tells Parents the behavior can be explained by a variety of reasons.

“First, they are highly influenced by peer pressure and the need to feel like they belong to a larger community. Participating in a popular challenge can provide a sense of inclusion and social validation among their peers” she says. “Second, the desire for attention and likes on social media platforms is a powerful motivator for many young people. Taking part in viral challenges can boost their online visibility and garner more engagement, which can be personally rewarding."

Given that social media challenges can be alluring for young people, parents should try and stay up to date on what new social media challenges are out there so they know the risks. Kids may be hesitant to admit they participated in a certain activity out of fear of getting in trouble.

Ultimately, Dr. Rice says, “It is important for parents and caregivers to have an open dialogue with their children about social media challenges so that children can understand just how dangerous, or potentially deadly, these activities can be.”

Related: The Egg Crack Challenge Does Deserve Shaming—Sorry Not Sorry

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Read the original article on Parents.