When it comes to burns, most think that the skin is damaged by contact to heat. On the other hand, a burn is also applicable to injury caused by cold which includes a freezer burn or a mild case of frostbite. Burns due to cold exposure are initiated by long-term contact with cold objects or exposure to freezing conditions. Once there is a drop in the temperature, it results to the freezing of the water in the cells which results to the formation of sharp ice crystals and damage to the surrounding cell structures. The most common way in which this can occur is through the application of ice packs to injuries. If you want to learn how to use ice properly for injuries, click here.
Check the affected skin
If you suspect that the skin is burned with an ice pack, you have to assess the area and evaluate the severity of the damage. Once the skin is red in color and tingling, you can safety perform the appropriate treatment. In case the area is numb but the sensation of pins-and-needles is present as it starts to warm, there is no permanent damage and delivering care can continue. Nevertheless, if the area is cold, white and hard when touched and then becomes swollen and red as it warms, it is best to seek medical care. Take note that this type of damage is trailed by the development of blisters as well as long-lasting bruising or discoloration of the skin which can indicate long-term damage and possible destruction of the blood vessels.
Rewarming of the skin
The affected areas must be rewarmed, but this must be done gradually or it will unintentionally cause more harm on the delicate tissues. The burned skin must be submerged in lukewarm water between 104 and 107 degrees Fahrenheit. Avoid moving or massaging the damaged areas since these can cause the subcutaneous ice crystals in the tissues to move and cause further damage.
You have to leave the injured skin underwater for 15-30 minutes or until the skin is soft, pink and pliable again. If the temperature of the surrounding water drops below 100 degrees Fahrenheit, you have to reheat it and submerge again the affected area. Take note that the thawing process can be painful, thus you have to provide over-the-counter medications for pain such as ibuprofen in order to ease the discomfort.
Once the surface of the skin returned to its normal temperature, apply a generous coating of honey or Aloe Vera to the affected area and cover loosely with gauze. Both can help the skin retain moisture and increase the formation of the new skin cells and hastening the recovery process.
Preventing an ice pack burn
An ice pack burn can be prevented. If you feel the need to apply an ice pack on an injury to minimize the swelling and inflammation, always cover the ice pack or cold compress with a clean cloth or towel. It is important that you know how to properly use an ice pack in order to prevent damage to the skin.
Do not apply directly on the skin. Leave it in place for 10-20 minutes at most as longer application will only increase the risk for injury.