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Internet challenges: Would your health insurance cover the risks?

Parents of Hong Kong, take heed. Maybe not today, and maybe not tomorrow, but someday… your child is going to do something dumb. What’s even worse is that this dumb thing they do is going to happen because somebody on the internet did the same dumb thing. Now, we’re all familiar with the realities of the term ‘monkey see, monkey do’ – where impressionable people will imitate behavior that they see, seemingly no matter how silly it may be – but the advent of the free and open communication that the internet provides has exacerbated instances of this simian simulation syndrome. Yes, internet challenges have been all the rage for some years now.

No doubt we all remember the Ice Bucket Challenge, which did wonders for raising awareness and funds for ALS research. However, what started as a stunt where people innocently dumped buckets of water on themselves quickly turned into a game of one-upmanship where new entries got increasingly more extreme. This inevitably led to people going too far and getting injured, and even dying. To be sure, the Ice Bucket Challenge was somewhat tame in comparison to some of the other internet challenges that are out there. Here,  Pacific Prime Hong Kong examines some of the other challenges that have gained popularity, the dangers they pose to participants, and if health insurance will cover any resulting injuries.

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The challenge of the moment

The hottest internet challenge to hit the web over the past few months is the Tide Pod Challenge. For those not in the know, Tide Pods are a product that is essentially a capsule of concentrated laundry detergent. The chemicals within are toxic, should be considered highly poisonous, and should not ever be consumed by human beings, or animals of any kind for that matter. Yet today, people – teenagers in particular – are posting videos of themselves chewing Tide Pods online for nothing more than bragging rights and imaginary internet points. While this challenge essentially started as a joke about how ludicrous internet challenges can be, that did not stop the world from getting to the point where people are now literally swallowing laundry detergent.

To many, the idea of somebody swallowing laundry detergent as a dare may seem highly improbable, but it’s true. The United States’ numerous poison control centers have even reported a sharp spike in people calling them after doing exactly that. This has prompted medical professionals to spell out exactly how swallowing a Tide Pod can adversely affect one’s health.

It turns out that the chemicals inside a Tide Pod can have a profound effect on a person’s central nervous system. Saying that this can make a person sleep is an understatement. These chemicals can depress the nervous system to the point that the person falls into a coma, and may not even be able to breathe on their own. What’s more, the pods can lead to seizures, pneumonia, esophageal damage, necrosis, respiratory failure, and even death.

Classic buffoonery

So that’s the hot button challenge that we are seeing today, but what are some examples of classic internet challenges that have led to less-than-desirable outcomes for the safety and health of would be challengers? Here are some that come to mind:

The Kylie Lip Challenge – This internet challenge involved people using a small container of some kind to puff out their lips in a manner that is intended to resemble those of celebrity Kylie Jenner. This is done by inserting the lips into the container and creating a vacuum that sucks and pulls on the lips, giving them a plump look if done in the correct fashion. The problems stemming from the challenge, however, are that some people end up bruising or even permanently damaging or misshaping their lips. Additionally, when performed with a glass container, such as shot glass, the vacuum created can shatter the glass, thereby lacerating and injuring the challenger.

The Cinnamon Challenge – This is actually one that we’ve written about before. Eating a heaping spoonful of cinnamon may not seem like a tough challenge, and cinnamon is even known for its positive effects on health when eaten, but this challenge has actually resulted in death. It turns out that ingesting a significant quantity of just about any fine powder, edible or otherwise, can end up causing a person to inhale the substance and choke. It can even lead to collapsed lungs.

The Choking Game – People have actually been inducing fainting in their friends for decades. It has been known that a person can be knocked out through a combination of hyperventilating and/or cutting off their air supply, but only recently have people been incentivized to do so in order to get ‘likes’, ‘follows’, and ‘subs’ online. While this challenge has certainly resulted in numerous deaths over many years, It doesn’t take a doctor to realize just how dangerous this so-called game can be. When it comes to choking others, whether done in a friendly, fun way or not, we should all agree to just say no.

The Car Surfing Challenge – Teens can certainly have a penchant for high speeds and stunts. Unfortunately, combining them together oftentimes can make for deadly outcomes. As you can guess from the name, the Car Surfing Challenge involves people ‘surfing’ on the hoods, roofs, or bumpers of vehicles as their friends drive them around on open roads. Inertia is one force that nobody can get the better of, so this challenge has, sadly, resulted in many injuries and deaths.

The Salt and Ice Challenge – This challenge is basically a science experiment that is purposely done incorrectly to test the pain thresholds of challengers. If you have ever lived where it snows, you likely know that one way to break up ice covering a sidewalk is to cover it with salt. When salt and ice meet one another, there is a chemical reaction that occurs that releases quite a bit of heat. Enough heat, in fact, to cause second and third degree burns to a person’s skin, which is something that has happened to people participating in this challenge.

The Eyeballing Challenge – Leaving aside the fact that many participants in this challenge weren’t legally allowed to purchase or consumer the main ingredient, alcohol, this challenge is still bad news. The Eyeballing Challenge involves people trying to consumer a shot of liquor by dumping it into their eye socket. Unsurprisingly, this is an inadvisable practice that can result in irritation, swelling, or scarring of the eye’s cornea, as well as a whole host of other ocular issues.

Internet challenges and insurance coverage

If a person is injured or contracts a disease as the result of participating in any of the above, or any not-yet-invented, internet challenges, they will be seeking out medical assistance. Those in Hong Kong would do well to keep in mind that the best healthcare in the city is found in its private hospitals, and these private hospitals are home to the second most expensive medical costs in the world, after the US. That being said, to properly address medical costs stemming from internet challenges gone wrong, health insurance is a must.

Will health insurance even cover such injuries, though? After all, these challenges were incurred through the idiocy of the participant, and surely they knew the risks involved, right? Well, fortunately for most, health insurance policies will still provide coverage for injuries sustained during internet challenges.

Whatever could happen during an internet challenge, it is unlikely that a person will go into it hoping, or possibly even expecting, that they would sustain a serious injury. As such, injuries incurred are still considered accidental, and thus are likely to be included in health insurance coverage. Watch out, though! If an insurer has a reason to believe that you intentionally harmed yourself, or performed a stunt assuming that you would sustain a serious injury, they may decide that you are in violation of the terms of your policy, and subsequently deny any claims made on it.

When dealing with the various challenges that the internet will almost certainly be coming up with in the future, the waters of insurance coverage are likely to be quite murky. To make sure you and your family members (no matter how impressionable they may be) are protected from life’s risks, talk to Pacific Prime Hong Kong today. Our agents can answer any questions you may have, and provide you with plan comparison and free price quotes from top insurers in Hong Kong.

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