Polar Plunge could set hearts aflutter, healthy face no danger - New York News

Polar Plunge could set hearts aflutter, healthy face no danger

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Source: Chicago Mayor's Office Facebook page. (Photo by Brooke Collins) Source: Chicago Mayor's Office Facebook page. (Photo by Brooke Collins)
CHICAGO (Sun-Times Media Wire) -

On Sunday, Jimmy Fallon could face the same fate of anyone who's been on the receiving end of Mayor Rahm Emanuel's famous temper: increased blood pressure and a pounding heart, the Sun-Times reports.

Fallon's heart might race a bit when he jumps into the icy waters of Lake Michigan on Sunday with the mayor at the Polar Plunge, a fund-raiser for Special Olympics Chicago. The new host of "The Tonight Show" accepted Emanuel's dare to join him in exchange for Emanuel appearing on the late-night talk show.

Doctors say that when Fallon, Emanuel and more than 2,000 other participants jump into the lake at North Avenue for the plunge, the shock of 32-degree water could make their hearts beat irregularly for a short time.

The air temperature is likely to hover around 17 or 18 degrees at the time — with a chance of snow — at plunge time. But the relatively warmer water won't provide much comfort.

"The cold temperatures when you dive into water immediately can be somewhat hazardous," said Dr. Dipul Patadia, an emergency medicine physician at Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital.

Sudden immersion in very cold water can cause external blood vessels to constrict. Blood pressure goes up, and the heart has to work harder than normal to pump blood through the body.

Generally speaking, people who are healthy should be fine, doctors say. Elderly people, children and anyone with major medical problems should consult with their doctor before taking part in the Polar Plunge.

It's also not a good idea to drink alcohol before jumping into icy water, said Dr. Sari Hart, emergency physician with NorthShore University HealthSystem — though one could argue that might make it more bearable.

"People who have alcohol in their system are less likely to accurately sense cold and less likely to respond appropriately to cold exposure," Hart said. "They might not shiver, they might not seek warm dry clothing right away, and they would be at increased risk for hypothermia [when one has a dangerously low body temperature]."

At these temperatures, people shouldn't stay in Lake Michigan longer than five minutes. More than 30 minutes, can cause a person to die of cardiac arrest, Patadia said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also recommends the following precautions for cold water immersion: wear proper clothing, avoid cotton, instead go for wool and synthetics; use a personal flotation device and have someone there who can retrieve you from the water.

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