Schools cool to teen 'polar plunge' dare
"There are different ways that people are doing it," said Carly Cook, a senior at John Stark High School in Weare. "Some people are jumping from a bridge so they're in the water longer because they have to swim to shore. Others go to the river. They go in and go under and run out."
Principals have sent notices to parents and initiated in-school discussion about the safety of the fad.
"From what I heard of the number that haven't (taken the plunge), there isn't any type of bullying going on," Cook said. I know so many that haven't done it."
"It's kind of a bad idea," said Dr. Timothy Bradley, a pediatric emergency room physician at Elliot Hospital.
It ignores basic elements of water safety, he said. Entering rivers with swiftly moving spring currents could sweep a person beyond the limits of rescue help. Diving into water that still has ice on the surface could make it impossible for the diver to rise to the surface.
Since teens tend to have less body fat, they cool down quickly, Brady said. The body compensates by moving blood from its core to the area experiencing the sudden cold, which can cause shock and respiratory problems, causing brain damage.
Stark High Principal Christopher Corkery said in a memo to students that an activity that unites soon-to-be-graduated seniors has spread.
"While this may have started with a group of like-minded seniors, it seems to have already spread to the freshmen class," Corkery wrote. "I do ask you to consider your personal safety, and remind you that I have a responsibility to address any harassment, bullying, hazing or other threatening behavior towards your fellow students."
"Some of my friends think it's stupid," Cook said. "They'll post a video of a plunge, and you'll see someone stepping in a puddle or pouring water on them from a water bottle."
Still, he worries that the cases that end up in the emergency room will have dire consequences.
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