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School warning: What parents need to know about the 'eraser challenge'

The "eraser challenge" been around for years, but now the potentially-harmful kids' "game" is getting renewed attention.
/ Source: TODAY

The “eraser challenge” been around for years, but now the potentially-harmful kids’ “game” is getting new attention as it continues to pop up on social media and intrigue more children.

East Iredell Middle School in Statesville, North Carolina, this month warned parents about the trend, noting several students have gotten hurt after taking part in the dare.

“Kids are rubbing an eraser across their skin while having to do or say something. It's causing serious burns,” the school advised in a Facebook post on March 3. “These ‘challenges’ have gotten out of hand.”

A popular version of the dare has children reciting the alphabet while rubbing the skin on their arm fast and hard with an eraser. It often leads to skin abrasions and cuts, with the apparent goal to see how long the participants can last. They then “compare” their wounds. Social media is filled with videos of kids and teens filming themselves doing the challenge and wincing in pain. Photos show the resulting scars.

“I think children are lonely. They sit in front of the internet and they don’t have anyone to be accountable to,” one parent told NBC News affiliate WCNC in Charlotte, North Carolina.

"I thought it was the stupidest thing I've ever heard in my life," another parent told WDAF-TV in Kansas City. A middle school in the area warned families about the “eraser challenge” last year after noticing students sporting the tell-tale skin abrasions.

Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson, a Seattle pediatrician who writes the Seattle Mama Doc blog, wasn't that surprised children are engaging in the challenge.

"These are kids acting like kids," Swanson told TODAY. "It seems like there's this bravado in it, there's this easy accessibility... when you're thinking about the social dynamics of children trying to belong, trying to get attention and show strength, it isn't that surprising."

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Parents and teachers should remind children they could cause themselves harm, she noted.

Eraser burns have become so common that some schools have taken to warning students about the dangers of the craze. Erasers are not clean and rubbing them against the skin until it’s raw and broken can lead to a severe infection, including staph or strep skin infections, Warren Hills Middle School in Washington, New Jersey, warns on its web page.

"Kids don't know this, but your skin isn't sterile, it's crawling and teeming with bacteria and when you open up your skin, that bacteria can crawl in and cause an infection," Swanson said.

"Most kids are going to play this stupid game and have redness in their skin, create a scab and they might be left with a scar. Most kids will do fine because our immune systems are just profound."

But serious health issues are also possible. A 13-year-old at Chico Junior High School in Chico, California, reportedly contracted strep A toxic shock in 2015 after taking part in the challenge.

Wash any small wound with soap and lukewarm water, and cover with antibiotic ointment. If there's spreading redness or ongoing oozing, see a doctor, Swanson said.

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