My mom finally decided that she's let me do the Polar Plunge this year. I'm extremely excited beacause I've wanted to do it for a long time now, and I always forgot to ask...so I guess it was never really about getting permission...just...finally asking to do it...
Anyways! I was thinking about it, and how I know that the shock of cold water is good for your body because it's revitalizing. But, it can definitely become dangerous very easily. Yet, I never quite knew how!
Now...thanks to the internet...I do! And...thanks to aplusphysics.com...so will you!
Turns out, cold water immersion leads to hypothermia. There are simply a few phases before and prior.
1. Cold Shock Response
2. Cold Incapacitation
4. Circum-rescue Collapse
The Cold Shock Response refers to the change in your breathing when you immerse your body in freezing cold water. In lasts for only about a minute, but there is an automatic gasp reflex in response to rapid skin cooling. If the heading goes underwater immediately, then this reflex occurs under water and drowing becomes extremely likely. But, as long as you don't drown, the second component of the Cold Shock Response is hyperventilation. This is also caused naturally and will subside as long as one does not panic. Prolonged hyperventilation can lead to fainting however, so the main focus is to work on breath control. The component to this phase is vasoconstriction. This is cardiac related in that you are forcing your heart to work harder to pump blood throughtout the body. This is potentially deathly for those with any sort of heart diseases or conditions.
The second phase is Cold Incapacitation. This happens after being in the water between 5 and 15 minutes. In an effort to preserve heat in your core, vasoconstriction decreases blood flow to the extremities; this protects the vital organs and allows the periphery to cool. Muscles and nerves don't function well when cold.Therefore, during this time frame, limb capability and movement gradually decrease and it becomes a lot more difficult to stay afloat without a floatation device.
Finally, Hypothermia kicks in. The main misconception here is the time it actually takes to acquire it. For most adults it can take upwards of 30 minutes to contract even minor Hypothermia. Knowing this fact actually causes a lot less panic in a survival situation. So, this blog post could literally save yourself. Remain calm. And you're welcome.
The last phase is Circum-rescue Collapse. This happens just before, during or after rescue and the symptoms range anywhere from fainting to death. It happens just around rescue because, as soon as saving becomes imminent and inevitable a mental relaxtion occurs. Blood pressure may drop and muscles may fail which can cause collapse or in extrme cases cardiac arrest and potentially death. The key point is that heart function is dramatically impacted by form of extraction and the way that a victim is handled when being rescued. Ergo, while it may seem counter-intuitive to training for other types of rescue, knowing what NOT to do is the most important in Hypothermic situations; especially when it comes down to saving a life.
Honestsly, I'm glad I looked this stuff up before committing to the challenge. I mean I'm still doing it, no doubt. This is just a warm up for when I go to Finland and experience their culture. You start in a 100 degree Celsuis sauna (the temperature at which water boils! Then you run and jump into a hole in the ice into the frigid ice water. The Polar Plunge is pure practice.