Doctor Explains Potential Dangers Of ALS “Ice Bucket Challenge”

DETROIT (WWJ) – Have you taken the “Ice Bucket Challenge”?

Everyone from George W. Bush to Kermit The Frog has endured the dumping of a bucket of ice and water over their heads to raise money for ALS research; and, while it’s a worthy cause, Dr. Brian O’Neill of the Detroit Medical Center says participants should proceed with caution.

He told WWJ Newsradio 950 that being doused with freezing cold water can pose significant danger.

“What happens is — if it’s a longer duration or even a short, intense duration — it sometimes can cause a vagal response, where you breathe in and your bear down and it slows your heart rate down,” said O’Neill.

“For somebody who’s on blood pressure medications, on any medications that can slow their heart rate down, they can pass out,” O’Neill said. “And, of course, if you fall from a standing position there’s always the potential for head injury.”

O’Neill says injury can also result from the mechanics of dumping the water.

“The actually mechanical, heavy amount of water — everybody’s been to the water park — but the amount of water and the ice in addition to it coming down…just the mechanical force, particularly on the top of the head, certainly could cause a lot of damage,” O’Neill said.

O’Neill urges those who accept the challenge be wise and be cautious about it.

“Be reasonable. I think…the problem is everyone is gonna do it better and bigger and badder,” he said. “Short duration, for a good cause, smart thinking; watch the amount of ice, (and it) may be better than to hit your back then your head with it.”

“Everything in moderation.”

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