Teens and the Cold Water Challenge: Parents Beware!

Cold Water Challenge is the latest fund-raising fad. Around the U.S. people are being challenged to jump in cold water to raise money for cancer charities.

The problem?

#ColdWaterChallenge can kill you!

I’m all in favor of engaging people to raise money for charities and of bonding communities together over causes that touch so many of our lives, but jumping into cold water is just plain dangerous.

Penguins dive into ice cold waterWe’ve all experienced it, the exhilarating and invigorating feeling when you plunge into cold water, even if it’s just a splash of cold water on your face on a blistering hot day. It makes you feel vitally alive. The problem is your brain and your body are thinking you are in danger of becoming quite the opposite – dead from extreme trauma.

The first reaction, that you may interpret as exhilaration, the racing heart and gasping breath, is actually self-preservation. Your body will consider any water temperature below 70F to be ‘cold’. If you can’t control the gasping breath immediately, you are in immediate danger of hyperventilating as your body tries to gather more oxygen. If you pass out, the body’s natural self-preservation instinct to force you to breathe normally, you pass out in water and drown.

Let’s say you get your breathing under control pretty quickly. Your body is still reacting to the extreme temperature surrounding your skin by constricting your blood vessels to conserve the warm blood for your heart and brain. This can limit your ability to move, to even grasp a life ring or a pole to pull you out. If you sink and there is no help or no one who understands that being under water for more than a minute or two could be fatal or simply not be able to get you out, you will drown.

Finally, if you are in for long enough, longer than the ‘plunge’, hypothermia will set in. It’s unlikely the hypothermia will kill you if you never exited the water in the first place – again, you will drown first, you will lose the ability to get yourself out of the water.

Drowning can happen in 2 minutes in 2 inches of water. A plunge into cold water can severely restrict your ability to save yourself. Add alcohol to the equation, which opens your blood vessels and impairs your body’s ability to constrict the vessels and protect your brain and heart, and you have a definite recipe for disaster.

If you have teenage boys or 20-somethings in particular, be aware, and make them aware. Just as most people are not even aware that drowning is an issue, they are probably even less aware that jumping into cold water can significantly increase your risk for drowning.

Can you help us stop this dangerous fad?

Tweet this: #ColdWaterChallenge can kill you #stopdrowning.

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About the Author

Global water safety for children is my passion and I can't wait to get up every day to work at it! I blog about water safety regularly at http://www.RebeccaWearRobinson.com, or you can follow me on Twitter at RebeccaSaveKids. Rebecca is a former member of the PedSafe Expert team


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  1. […] latest craze following the (dangerous) #ColdWaterChallenge is the Ice Bucket Challenge to raise awareness for ALS. Although some in the water safety field […]

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