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‘Cold Water Challenge’ Warning: Injuries, 1 Death Reported

A deadly new "Cold Water Challenge" is gaining ground online, having already claimed one life and several injuries, according to media reports.

The new fad involves posting videos of teens jumping into ice-cold water, which (unsurprisingly) has a very high chance of ending in tragedy. The Post-Crescent reports that Davis Colley, 16, of Minnesota, drowned in a frigid lake last week. Before his death, Colley texted a friend that he was taking part in the "Cold Water Challenge."

What do parents need to know about the "Cold Water Challenge?"

Another Inane Internet Challenge

Move over "Cinnamon Challenge," teens on YouTube and social media have turned to a more deadly form of recreation -- jumping into near-freezing bodies of water. In addition to Colley's death on Friday, a 16-year-old Wisconsin girl "shredded her knee on a clump of zebra mussel shells in Lake Winnebago" earlier this month during a "Cold Water Challenge" attempt, reports the Post-Crescent.

Apparently the challenge is spread much like a chain letter: A person receives a "nomination" over text or social media to perform the "Cold Water Challenge," and in accepting the challenge, that person then nominates several other friends to join the dangerous game.

While this challenge seems similar to the "Polar Plunge," a charity event supporting the Special Olympics, it lacks any noble purpose or safety precautions. Coast Guard officials noted in a press release that "this is a fundamentally unsafe activity" and "needlessly reckless."

Not only do these jumps into cold water lead to drowning, but participants often misjudge the depth of the water, raising the risk of broken limbs and even paralysis. Rescuers also warn against the danger of the "gasp reflex" when hitting cold water, which can lead to drowning, reports the Post-Crescent.

Tips to Avoid a Watery Grave

Despite the inherent risks of diving into icy waters, there are a few ways to keep "Challenge" participants safe(r):

  • Wear a life jacket. Whether you're boating or deciding to take part in the "Challenge," a life jacket will prevent you from becoming a water-logged corpse.
  • Don't jump/dive off piers. This is good advice for pool owners as well: Don't jump or dive into shallow water. If you can't tell how deep it is, assume shallow enough to be dangerous.
  • Participate with friends. Didn't you see "127 Hours"? Don't do extreme sports or challenges alone.
  • Go slowly. You can (more) safely immerse yourself and avoid the "gasp reflex" by getting slowly into the water.

Of course the best way to avoid injury: Avoid taking part in the "Cold Water Challenge." Fifteen seconds of fame on YouTube just isn't worth the risk.

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