Care for an injury (hot or cold)

How cold helps initially

When you twist an ankle (or similar), the tissues underneath the skin are injured. Blood & fluids seep out from the torn blood vessels & cause swelling to occur at the site of the injury. Cold is best used only after any internal bleeding has been controlled, it then can be used as an aid to recovery.

Ice packs may be applied for 10 mins at a time and continued periodically for at least 48 hours and up to 72 hours or until the tissues are no longer hot to touch.

How heat helps later on

After the 72hours, heat applications may be prescribed. Heat speeds up the chemical reactions needed to repair tissue. White blood cells move in to rid the body of infections, and other cells begin the repair process.

Always apply cold before heat.

Remember "RICE"

  • Rest: Avoid any movements or activities which cause pain
  • Ice: Only once bleeding has been controlled, apply a wrapped ice pack or cold compress.
  • Compression: Apply a firm supportive bandage to give an even pressure over the injured area.
  • Elevation: Elevating the injured area helps slow the flow of blood and reduces swelling. If possible, raise the injured area above the level of the heart.

 

* Information from Qld Ambulance Service First Aid book