In the same way that fire burns, ice can have a similar effect. You've got it: ice can burn! This happens when ice or something else that's cold rests on a part of your body for a long time. That being said, there are some tips that can be helpful to follow so that you can remain burn-free when you come into contact with ice. Read on for more about the causes, signs, and risks of ice burns, and what you can do to treat them.
What Are Ice Burns Caused By?
If you leave ice or something cold against your skin for even just a few minutes, you could end up with a burn. In fact, if you're very unlikely even frostbite can occur! The coldness negatively impacts your blood flow in the region that it's placed against. This causes the oxygen supply to get cut off, degrading your skin, and resulting in a burn. If you ever experience this, it's time to seek medical help right away.
Here's what can cause an ice burn to occur:
- Being subjected to extremely cold conditions over a long period
- Encountering strong and cold breezes
- Exposure to high altitudes
- Involvement in winter sports
It's worth noting as well that in areas where homelessness is an issue and it's relatively cold, the rates of ice burns increase.
How do you know, however, when you're suffering from an ice burn? Well, if you can spot some of the main signs, then it's likely what you're facing. Want to know what they are? Let's take a look.
What Are The Signs You've Got An Ice Burn?
These are the top signs that you might have an ice burn:
- Feeling numb
- Skin pigment lightens
- Breakouts of blisters
- Hardening of your skin
Think you might be suffering from an ice burn? A doctor can help you to find out. Check out how they diagnose the problem so the right treatment can be offered below.
How Do Doctors Diagnose An Ice Burn?
After removal from the cold, if your skin continues to be light, pale, or discolored, you could be experiencing an ice burn. Also, if you feel numb in the area that's been impacted and you're still unable to see the color return back to normal, then a burn could be the problem. The best course of action is to contact your doctor who'll assess the extent of the burn and what the next steps are.
Who Is At High Risk For An Ice Burn?
While everyone has the capacity to experience an ice burn, there are some people who are more likely to. Here are some of them (including the conditions that they're subjected to):
- Those with a diagnosed medical illness such as diabetes, peripheral neuropathy, and conditions affecting blood flow are more at risk for an ice burn (or in some cases frostbite).
- Kids as well as the older generation tend to have thinner skin that's more easily damaged when exposed to the cold.
- Smokers increase their chances of frostbite or ice burns when in extremely cold climates (or when coming into contact with cold objects).
Receiving first-aid treatment right away can prove to be a great acute form of treatment. But there are plenty more ways you can heal your wounds. Want to know more about them so that you best protect yourself in the case of an ice burn? Let's take a deeper dive and see.
What Can You Do Treat An Ice Burn?
There are home remedies that you can follow that provide effective treatment. But it is worth noting that there's further action you can take to prevent the ice burn from getting worse. These are some of the steps you can take:
- Lift the cold object away from your skin.
- Take off and change any clothes that are wet.
- Try your best not to make contact with the burnt area to ensure no more damage is done.
- Use pain medication to try and ease the pain (you can try non-prescription medication first here).
- You can use a warm compress or hot blanket to try and make you feel more at ease. But do ensure not to rub it into your damaged skin as immediate heat can cause your skin to burn.
- Sit in a bath with the damaged area submerged for between half an hour to an hour (aiming for a temperature of around 37-39 degrees Celsius).
- Allow the hot water to soak in if the affected region still feels cold.
- Add a smooth cream or lotion to your skin (aloe vera is a good one).
- Wrap a bandage around the burn to protect it from further damage.
- Stay well hydrated by topping up with water all throughout the day.
It really depends on how severe the ice burn is when it comes to deciding the right course of treatment. For example, in some cases, you might need an antibiotic, while for others over-the-counter medication will do. Then at times, you simply might just need to bandage it up and let it naturally heal!
If you're struggling to see results with any home remedy you try, then it's best to see a doctor. Then, you can receive the appropriate diagnosis and treatment measures. If the area begins to become infected, then it's definitely the right time to get professional help. This is another instance where antibiotics might be required.
When it comes to extreme frostbite, specialist treatment such as prostacyclin or thrombolytic procedure may possibly be advised.
Moving on, let's see the length of time you should expect to have to wait for a full recovery to take place.
How Long Should A Full Recovery From An Ice Burn Take?
Generally, you should fully recover from an ice burn in just a few days. However, extreme burns can last months to recover from and you might even need surgery for the healing process to even be successful.
So, it's best to always try to never have to encounter an ice burn at all. How can you do that? Let's find out.
How Can You Avoid An Ice Burn?
- To avoid an ice burn, stick on lots of thermal clothes. You'll definitely want to do this if you're taking part in winter or outdoor sports such as skiing or climbing.
- Ensure you never openly touch your skin with an ice pack. Protect your skin by wrapping a cloth around the area where you're applying the pack.
Here's when you should speak with your doctor.
When's It Best To Speak With Your Doctor After An Ice Burn?
See your doctor if you see any of these signs:
- Skin turning pale, discolored, or cold.
- The skin doesn't return back to its normal color.
- Your skin's still numb and tingling even after gaining heat.
Any object that's cold or frozen, such as ice, can cut off the oxygen supply to your skin. If this continues over time, damage can occur, leading to an ice burn. You can then end up with symptoms such as pain, feelings of numbness and tingling, or blisters on your skin. Home remedies can lead to healing within just a few days. But if it doesn't seem to be improving, it's time to look for medical help.
Should a blister from an ice burn ever be squeezed?
No. Never squeeze a blister since this can lead to an infection and prolong the damage.
What causes frostbite to turn black?
Tissue that dies in the affected area is what makes frostbite go black.
How long can frostbite take to clear?
Typically, frostbite can last for up to a couple of weeks. As long as there are no further issues faced, a full recovery should occur within six months.
Key Take-Home Points
- You can experience an ice burn if you touch or come into contact with cold or frozen objects, or are exposed to cold conditions for a long enough time.
- Signs that you're suffering from an ice burn include the skin blistering, becoming discolored, or hard.
- Kids and the elderly can be more susceptible to ice burns due to having thin and easily damaged skin.