An ice pack or gel pack contains ice or a refrigerant liquid. The ice pack and the gel, which is mostly water, can take up large amounts of heat due to the high enthalpy of fusion in water. Enthalpy of fusion is also known as the melting process. These packs can be used to keep food cool in coolers or as a cold compress to lessen the pain of minor injuries. The application of ice packs can help reduce pain, swelling and soreness due to injuries and other health conditions such as arthritis. This is why ice packs are used as an initial first aid measure on various injuries.
Types of ice and cold packs
- Cold towel – soak a towel with cold water and wring out the excess water until it is moist. Fold the towel and place inside in a plastic bag and freeze it for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, remove the towel in the plastic bag and place it on the injury.
- Ice packs – place about 1 lb. of ice in a plastic bag or ice pack. Add enough water to cover the ice. Squeeze the air out of the bag and seal it securely. Wrap the bag in a wet towel and apply it over the affected area.
- Cold packs – a bag of vegetables such as frozen peas works best since it moulds well to an affected body part. Another alternative is to combine 3 cups of water and a cup rubbing alcohol in a plastic bag. Close the bag securely and store it in the freezer. This can be reused by simply freezing the bag again in the freezer.
Important considerations to bear in mind
Applying a cold pack to an injury such as a black eye, sprained ankle and a head trauma, can help force the blood away from the damaged tissue. As the blood retreats from the cold, the swelling will start to diminish and the pain will be lessened.
Applying cold packs can also promote cell repair. Cold packs basically push blood away from the injured tissue while the heat will draw it back again. Regular alternation of hot and cold helps boost the circulation, thus promotes the healing process. Musculoskeletal injuries due to overuse such as a damaged rotator cuff or a ligament strain will greatly benefit from alternate application of hot and cold.
Applying cold packs can reduce external bleeding. Placing a cold pack over the dressing of a wound that continues to bleed can help reduce the amount of blood that is lost by lowering the flow of blood until the medical team arrives on the scene.
Placing ice bags around an enclosed severed limb will increase the odds of a successful re-attachment procedure at the hospital. It works by slowing down the deterioration of tissue and development of an infection due to bacteria. Never apply directly a cold pack to a severed body part. You have to surround the container with cold packs.