Topic Overview

Ice and cold packs can relieve pain, swelling, and inflammation
from injuries and other conditions, such as arthritis.

Types of ice and cold packs

  • Ice towel. Wet a towel
    with cold water and squeeze it until it is just damp. Fold the towel, place it
    in a plastic bag, and freeze it for 15 minutes. Remove the towel from the bag
    and place it on the injured or sore area.
  • Ice pack. Put about
    1 lb (0.5 kg) of ice in a
    plastic bag or ice pack you buy at the store. Add enough water to barely cover
    the ice. Squeeze the air out of the bag and seal it. Wrap the bag in a wet
    towel and apply to the affected area.
  • Cold packs.
    • Bags of frozen peas or corn are
      inexpensive, last 10 to 20 minutes, and mold well to your body.
    • Mix
      3 cups (710 mL) water and 1 cup (235 mL) rubbing alcohol in a freezer bag. Seal
      the bag and place it in the freezer until slush forms. Refreeze the bag when
      the slush melts.
    • You can also buy cold packs that can be reused.
      Store them in your freezer. Some of them are designed to wrap around an injured
      area, such as an arm or knee.e

Using an ice or cold pack

Apply an ice or cold
pack to the injured or sore area at least 3 times a day for as long as you have
pain, swelling, and inflammation. For the first 72 hours, ice for 10 minutes,
once an hour. After that, use ice for 15 to 20 minutes, 3 times a day: in the
morning, in the late afternoon after work or school, and about one-half hour
before bedtime. Also, ice after any prolonged activity or vigorous

Always keep a cloth between your
skin and the ice pack, and press firmly against all the curves of the affected
area. Do not apply ice for longer than 15 to 20 minutes at a time, and do not
fall asleep with the ice on your skin.

Commercial cold packs are
too heavy and bulky for use on or around the eye. Be careful around the eye to
prevent a chemical burn to the eye if a pack leaks.


ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP – Emergency Medicine
Adam Husney, MD – Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito, MD – Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Joan Rigg, PT, OCS – Physical Therapy

Current as ofMarch 24, 2017