When I was a kid, in the so-called good old days, the idea of using cold compress to treat swellings, bruises, or aches and pains was a non-starter. Actually, it wasn’t even an idea; as a matter of fact, using cold compress didn’t even exist as a concept.
The routine for treating the numerous bruises and swellings we got in the course of being kids was always the same: our mums would fuss greatly about all the dangers that would befall us if we don’t quit playing rough.
While talking, water is already getting heated in a kettle or pot.
Then out would come a clean piece of cloth. Preferably a big hand towel which would be dropped in a bowl.
Then boiling water would join the towel in the bowl after some time. Then the poor woman would proceed to message the area around the area with the hot cloth after squeezing the water out.
The process is repeated several times until concerned mum is satisfied.
As a form of treatment, this was way better than going to the hospital where there is the danger of getting injected or be forced to swallow some bitter pills for days on end.
I am sure this practice of using hot cloth to message bruises and swelling still goes on.
But as a form of first aid, it is plain wrong. Using cold compress for treating swellings and bruises is the correct way to handle these things.
What is Cold Compress
In practical terms, cold compress is the opposite of how our mums treated swellings and injuries.
Instead of using hot water, ice cold water should have being the preferred option.
However, using cold compress doesn’t end at just dipping a towel in cold water, squeezing the water out and messaging the affected area with the cloth. It requires the use of ice.
A good cold compress involves wrapping pack of ice in a cloth and then holding the cloth containing the ice on the affected area for a while. It is even better if the ice is wrapped in plastic before covering it with the cloth. This is because you don’t want any water from melting ice to drip on to the skin of the patient.
Benefits of using cold compress.
For recent injuries and swelling, applying cold compress to the affected area would immediately slow the flow of blood to the affected area.
Depriving the affected area of blood also means oxygen-deprivation to the injury. This invariably reduces the rate of inflammation.
For recent injuries and swellings, limiting the flow of blood to that area is very good first aid. And the best way to do it is using cold compress.
For limbs, elevating them would also work in concert with cold compress to slow the flow of blood to the injury.
Muscles aches and spasms
Back in the day when going to the gym was as routine as eating daily, sore muscles and aches was a constant companion. My go-to remedy were cheap pain-relieving drugs.
With hindsight, using cold compress would have worked wonders for my muscles.
A cols compress would help the muscle relax very quickly, effectively stopping the spasms and subsequently aches.
I guess it is just logical that if using cold compress reduces blood flow, it follows that it can also be used to stop bleeding to an injury.
Our first instinct when we see blood coming out of a cut is to wrap a piece of cloth around it to reduce the flow. That is good. However, if ice is available, it is best to also apply ice to the affected area to help stop the bleeding.
In fact, using cold compress is even more beneficial to the injured skin.
‘Don’ts’ of using cold compress
1. Never allow the ice to come in direct contact with the skin. It can damage skin tissues.
2. Never leave the cold compress on the skin for more than 25 minutes. Generally, different areas of the body require different lengths of time.
The legs and other areas with bigger tissues and muscles would need the maximum 25 minutes of cold compress therapy to be effective.
Places like the wrists, neck, and ankles would need just about 15 minutes of it.
3. If you have to re-apply cold compress to the affected areas, it is best to wait for around 1 hour before using cold compress on the skin again.
This is to give the skin time to recover. Not allowing that time frame between cold compress sessions would likely damage the skin and nerves in the skin.
Hopefully, these tips and benefits would persuade you into using cold compress as a form of therapy and first aid instead of hot water.
If you still prefer hot water, kindly tell us why in the comment section below. And if you fall in the category of those who use cold compress, help us with more benefits of using cold compress that you are aware of.
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