We normally associate burning of the skin with heat. Yet extreme cold can cause damage to the skin in the same way as heat.
You will already know this if you have ever used an ice pack in treatment of muscle sprains or strains. Freezing temperatures of the cold pack onto the skin may produce tissue damage such as frost bite or ice pack burn. Place a cloth or a towel between the ice pack and your skin to benefit from the cold without damaging your skin.
To prevent the burn or frostbite from becoming so severe that the blood vessels become damaged you have to warm the area of the skin that has been affected by the ice pack. If blisters develop you may then realise that you have a burn or if the skin feels numb, or yellow-gray in colour, or a burning sensation is experienced with pain and an itch.
To make sure that you do not burn yourself or cause even more damage it is important to establish your normal body temperature very gradually. To restore feeling to the burn, you could wrap yourself in blankets, or soak the limb that is affected in warm water or use warm compresses. If you choose to use the warm soak it is recommended the temperature of the water should not be warmer than 108 degrees. Soak the affected area for 20 minutes and you should begin to see an improvement in your burn. You may also experience a tingling sensation and the skin colour will change to a red colour as it begins to thaw.
Blistering appears on the skin if you have experienced an ice pack burn the same way blisters appear with burns that have been caused by heat. To avoid complications and lessen infection the blisters must be treated correctly. It is recommended to remove excessive tissue as this allows the doctors to dress the wound effectively. If you do not follow the instructions correctly when using an ice pack there is a greater risk of an open wound developing. So it is very important to treat the wound the same as other wounds. Use an antibiotic ointment and the bandages should be gauze. By using the gauze bandages and petroleum jelly on the wound this keeps the affected area free from infection and moist.
If the area that has the blisters is over is quite large then it may be that the dressings and bandages have to be changed and reapplied for up to ten days in order for the damaged skin to heal effectively.
Should you experience a burn from an ice pack or you have an area that has been frostbitten and you do not experience any tingling, burning sensation or the skin doesnt return to a pinkish colour, this may be due to much more serious damage of muscles or blood vessels. Should this be the case immediate medical attention is required to make sure there is no risk of complications such as gangrene.