Is the #ALSIceBucketChallenge safe?
Although the idea behind the hashtag challenge is noble and effective, it had us at the Daily Briefing wondering: Is it safe?
A lot has been written about the health risks of other extreme-cold challenges, like polar plunges and cold water challenges.
According to Thomas Nuckton, a physician at the University of California-San Francisco and the California Pacific Medical Center, swimmers who complete long distances in colder water can face an increased risk of hypothermia—which is not inherently dangerous, but can make a swimmer sluggish or disoriented and impact his or her ability to make it back to shore.
More alarmingly, plunging into ice cold water can put pressure on the heart, Nuckton says. There have been some cases of Polar Plunge swimmers experiencing heart attacks or dying from "cold shock" after entering freezing water. In a 2013 interview with TIME's "Healthland," Thomas Traill, a cardiologist and professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, noted that people's muscles can become paralyzed from the cold and shut down even just a few feet from shore.
Cardiovascular roundsResearch Suggests Cold Temperatures Lead to More AMIs
Authorities in Camden Township, Minnesota, say that a 16-year-old boy drowned when he jumped into a lake as part of a "Cold Water Challenge" earlier this year. The popular challenge—which involved jumping into an icy body of water—was intended to raise money for cancer charities. In some states, authorizes are warning parents and children to avoid diving into frigid or fast-moving waters.
But these are more extreme challenges than the Ice Bucket Challenge, which involves just a brief splash of very cold water. When I asked Traill about the Ice Bucket Challenge, he said quite plainly, "It's safe."
(Nonetheless, I think I'll stick with hot showers. And donate to the ALS Association, of course.)