11 Dangers of Cold Plunges That You Should Consider

Joey Randazzo

Published: Oct 15, 2023

Last Updated:

If you’re in the cold plunge scene, then you probably have someone in your life that says something like:

“Cold plunges are awesome. I can stay in for 15 minutes and have no issues whatsoever. There’s nothing to worry about!”

Yet they say all that looking like this half the times they finish their cold plunges:

cold plunge dangerous

Honestly, my dad is one of those people. Quick story:

I went to Las Vegas last winter and we chose to do a cold plunge in the neighbors’ pool. Yes, Las Vegas can get cold in the winter. The neighbors pool was in the low 40F range.

My dad, who is in his mid 50s, pushed it and stayed in for well over 10 minutes. Three hours later? He was still shivering and NOT feeling well.

While, for many people, cold plunges aren’t dangerous when done in controlled settings, they are inherently dangerous.

Quick Summary Answering Whether or Not Cold Plunges Can Be Dangerous

If you have any underlying medical conditions, step one is to contact your doctor.

Natural cold plunges are definitely way more dangerous than indoor plunges, since you have to deal with things like:

  • Potentially icy roads driving to the plunge
  • Potentially icy trails walking to the plunge
  • Potentially strong currents/rapids or steep dropoff from shore as you enter the plunge
  • Cold outdoor temperatures alongside cold water temperatures, making it harder to warm up
  • Maybe you find a bear that wants to plunge with you (kidding but kinda serious?)

Indoor cold plunges, while less dangerous, also have some inherent dangers:

  • Hypothermia (if you stay in too long)
  • Frostbite (if you stay in too long)
  • Cardiac stress
  • Cold shock response, which could lead to drowning

The point of this article?

Cold plunges are NOT a walk in the park and should be taken seriously. Every plunge needs to be approached with intentionality, safety precautions need to be thought through, and plunging alone is never a good idea.

For “Healthy Normals” (As Tim Ferriss Would Describe Them), Cold Plunges Are Generally Safe & Beneficial

When done in controlled settings, there’s little risk of unplanned issues that you might experience with natural cold plunges (icy hiking trails, slippery rocks, fast water currents, etc).

Not only are cold plunges likely not dangerous for the average person, but they can actually be quite beneficial. 

I recommend you check out our article on Dr. Andrew Hubermans’s thoughts on cold plunges to see some of his thoughts.

But there are other things to consider. For example, are you curious if pregnant people can cold plunge?

11 Reasons Why Cold Plunges Can Potentially Be Dangerous, Especially for People Who Push It

Cold plunges, whether in natural outdoor settings like lakes, rivers, and creeks, or indoor environments like ice baths, can present various dangers that individuals should be aware of:

1. Hypothermia

This is mainly for the people who push it. You might be in a local Wim Hof group or maybe you’re just competitive.

And maybe you choose to stay in a cold plunge longer than you should…

Hypothermia is a real thing, people!

Prolonged exposure to extremely cold water can lead to hypothermia, where the body loses heat faster than it can produce it, resulting in a dangerously low core body temperature.


If you don’t know what frostbite is…

Cold water causes blood vessels to constrict, reducing blood flow to extremities and increasing the risk of frostbite, leading to tissue damage and necrosis.

Again, this really isn’t a major danger with cold plunges unless you truly push yourself to the absolute limit.

3. Cardiac Stress

Sudden exposure to cold water can cause a shock response, elevating heart rate and blood pressure, putting additional stress on the cardiovascular system. People with heart conditions may be at higher risk.

But sometimes folks don’t know if they’re at risk.

I mean, take a look at Bronny James (LeBron James’ son who is currently a Freshman basketball player at USC) - he experienced full-blown cardiac arrest during practice and he’s 18 years old.

4. Breathing Difficulties

Immersion in cold water can trigger gasping or hyperventilation, making it challenging to regulate breathing and increasing the risk of inhaling water, potentially leading to drowning.

This is particularly important if you’re considering cold plunges that require swimming.

We highly recommend avoiding cold plunges that require you to swim.

5. Cold Shock Response

The sudden drop in skin temperature when entering cold water can trigger an involuntary gasp reflex and increase the likelihood of swallowing water, leading to potential aspiration or panic response.

6. Dangerous Water Conditions

This is probably one of the most understated cold plunge risks and dangers.

Outdoor cold plunges may expose individuals to hazardous water conditions such as strong currents, turbulent rapids, or hidden obstacles beneath the water's surface, increasing the risk of drowning and injury.

Even if a river looks calm, there may be strong underwater currents that could pull you under. You must never underestimate the power of mother nature!

7. Slip and Fall Hazards

The amount of times that I’ve almost done this while walking on a trail to a cold plunge….

cold plunges dangerous

Cold plunges in outdoor locations can lead to snow or ice on the ground, making the surrounding area slippery and increasing the chances of slip and fall accidents, causing injuries.

Even if the ground isn’t icy, often the rocks leading into a natural cold plunge (rivers, lakes, etc) can be covered in moss or algae and be incredibly slippery.

8. Cold Water Swimming Challenges

In cold water swimming scenarios, where individuals are not standing but swimming, reduced muscle function and coordination may increase the likelihood of accidents or dangerous situations.

9. Altered Judgment and Decision Making

Cold water exposure can impair cognitive functions and decision-making abilities, potentially leading to poor judgment and risky behaviors, both in and out of the water.

10. Delayed Rescue and Hypothermia

Accidents during cold plunges in remote or adverse weather conditions may hinder or delay rescue efforts, exacerbating the risk of hypothermia and other cold-related injuries.

11. Immersion Diuresis

Prolonged immersion in cold water can lead to immersion diuresis, where the body increases urine production, potentially causing dehydration and electrolyte imbalances.

To ensure safety during cold plunges, it is crucial to assess the risks, wear appropriate gear, have supervision or a buddy system, and be familiar with the specific waterbody's conditions and potential hazards. 

Moreover, individuals with underlying health conditions or insufficient swimming skills should exercise extra caution or potentially avoid cold water immersion altogether. Contact your doctor or healthcare provider before choosing to do any type of cold plunge, whether indoor or outdoor.

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