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Ice or Heat for an Injury?

Do I Use Heat or Ice for My Teen's Injury?


Updated April 01, 2009

If your teen tripped down some steps and twisted a knee, what would you do? Here are some quick tips for whether you should use ice or heat for an injury.

The general guidelines are to use ice for the first 48 hours and then use heat. Ice causes vasoconstriction –- meaning, the blood vessels become more narrow. What this does is reduce the swelling that happens in an area that has been injured. Reducing the swelling helps prevent damage to the tissues in that area. After the first two days, use heat. Heat causes vasodilation –- the blood vessels become wider and bring more blood to the injured area. When more blood is allowed to get to the injured area at this point, oxygen and nutrients are delivered to the injury and dead and damaged cells are taken away.

About.com's Guide to Orthopedics has more detailed information on this subject. Read more about using ice or heat on an injury or about how to treat a sprain. As always, if you have questions or concerns about your teen's injury, contact your pediatrician.


Sports Injuries. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. March 28, 2009. http://www.niams.nih.gov/Health_Info/Sports_Injuries/default.asp#ra_5

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