A cold compress can aid in treating:

  • minor injuries
  • fevers
  • headaches
  • eye pain or allergies

Different types of compress will help with different injuries. For example, a bag of ice may be too cold to place comfortably on the eye area, while a cool cloth may do nothing for a serious injury.

Read on, to learn more about the benefits of cold compresses, and which types should be used for different ailments.

Benefits of a cold compress

A cold compress can help to lower the temperature in a certain part of the body while reducing pain and swelling.

Applying ice to an injury restricts blood flow to the area, which can result in:

  • slowing or stopping bleeding
  • reducing swelling and inflammation
  • preventing or limiting bruising
  • providing some pain relief

A cold compress does not need to include ice to relieve headaches, in most cases. Instead, a cold, damp towel can be wrapped around the whole head or the site of pain.

An individual can create a cool compress by:

  • selecting a towel that can cover the head
  • wetting the towel with cool water
  • squeezing out excess water, so that the towel is damp
  • leaving it in the refrigerator until it is quite cold
  • wrapping it around the head

If the feeling of the damp fabric is unpleasant, place the towel in a bag.

The same type of compress can help to reduce fevers. Try placing the compress on the head, neck, or chest, and seek medical attention if the fever does not go down.

Other uses

A cold or cool compress can help to reduce symptoms of a variety of conditions, including:

  • eye allergies
  • hemorrhoids
  • gout pain
  • muscle strains

Avoid applying compresses containing ice to the eye area or to babies. Otherwise, both children and adults can benefit from the effects.


Cold compresses are usually safe. However, some ailments, such as arthritis, respond better to heat. In general, injuries that persist for long periods tend to benefit more from warm compresses.

To limit the risks of a cold compress:

  • Never apply ice directly to the skin, as this can result in a burn.
  • Never use a cold compress on a major injury.
  • Never apply ice for long periods, as this can result in frostbite.


Cold compresses are easy to make and use at home.

In a first aid kit, a person may want to include a chemical pack that mimics the effects of ice. Several types of ready-made compresses are available to purchase online.

When self-care shows few results or when injuries are severe, seek medical attention.

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