It is a known fact that burns on the skin are usually linked with heat but severe cold can also cause damage to the skin in a similar manner. When using an ice pack in treating muscle sprains or strains, it is important to avoid direct exposure to the skin. The freezing temperature of an ice pack that is applied directly on the skin can cause localized area of tissue damage called as ice pack burn. The ideal way to prevent an ice pack burn is to place a barrier in between the ice pack and the skin such as a cloth or towel.
Warm the skin
It is important to warm the affected area that came in contact with the ice pack in order to stop the ice pack burn from worsening that can involve damage to the blood vessels. The individual might realize an ice pack burn if the development of blisters are noticed, if the skin turns yellowish-gray in color, skin feels numb, painful or itchy with a burning sensation.
Restoring normal body temperature should be done gradually in order to avoid further burning as well as resulting to damage. The affected limb must be immersed in warm water, apply a warm compress or wrap using blankets in order to gradually restore sensation to the area affected by the ice pack burn. When a warm soak is chosen, the temperature of the water must be at least 104 degrees F. The soak should be done for 20 minutes in which the ice pack burn will start to tingle and turn red in color as the skin starts to thaw out.
Treating the blisters
Always bear in mind that blistering is an indication of an ice pack burn. The management of blisters involves avoiding infection as well as other complications. The de-roofing of the blister which involves the removal of excess tissue will allow the doctor to properly dress the wound.
The individual will develop an open wound due to the incorrect use of an ice pack. The wound must be properly handled such as applying an antibiotic ointment, providing a barrier such as petroleum jelly and placing gauze bandages to keep the area moist and free from infection. In case the blistered area is wide, you might be required to change the dressings and reapply first aid measures to the affected up to 10 days. If you want to learn more, read here.
Medical care for an ice pack burn
If the area affected by the ice pack burn does not start to tingle, burn or regain a pinkish color, it might indicate extensive damage to the blood vessels as well as the muscles beneath the skin. In case the affected area remains numb with skin that feels cold and hard, medical care is needed. A doctor must be consulted for proper assessment as well as start appropriate measures to prevent complications such as gangrene and nerve damage.