Cold Compress


from Hydrothermic Remedies...


To prevent the depression that often occurs following heating treatments. The most effective form of cold compress to for this is a small towel wrapped around the head like a turban during the treatment.

"The same receptors, or special nerve endings, which serve to convey stimuli to the blood vessels and nerve endings, thence to all the organs reflexly connected with them, are affected as much by cold applications as by hot. The more intense the stimulation, the greater the reaction." Physical Therapy in Nursing Care, p.87.


A cloth wrung from cold or ice water which may be applied to any part of the body.

Physiologic Effects

  1. To decrease blood flow locally and distally
  2. To prevent and relieve congestion
  3. For relief of pain due to edema and/or trauma
  4. If applied over the heart: will slow the heart rate, increase the force and raise the arterial blood pressure
  5. To increase the reflect effect of thermal applications by increasing the difference between hot and cold; an example is using the cold compress following a fomentation.


  1. Throbbing Pain due to edema or trauma, such as Sprains
  2. Fevers
  3. Congestion in the face and head - Sinusitis and Headache (use with a Hot Foot Bath)
  4. As a Precordial Compress in Tachycardia - fast heartbeat (more than 100 beats/min)
  5. May be applied as a turban to the head or cravat to the neck with general applications of heat.
  6. Headache - apply Cold Compress to head while using a Hot Foot Bath)
  7. Passive Chest Congestion in lung problems, together with Fomentations/


  1. Diabetes use with caution
  2. Local Skin Inflammation
  3. Patients who cannot tolerate cold
  4. Patient who is chilled - wait until the entire body is warm


  1. Compress may be a wash cloth or hand towel (terry cloth) cheesecloth, etc. (The size depends on the part to be treated.)
  2. Basin for cold or ice water
  3. Plastic or rubber sheeting


Important Considerations

  • Some patients cannot tolerate moist cold over sinuses
  • Remember reflex effects of cold: concomitant vasoconstriction in opposite limb and reflex area
  • Keep bed dry
  • Do not drip cold water on patient
  • Do not let patient get chilled; especially watch when applying compress over a large area; use the hot foot or arm baths if possibility of chilling is present
  • Never cover a cold compress, it heats too quickly

Preparation for Treatment

  • See that the patient is in a comfortable position
  • Have the room warm with no drafts
  • Protect pillow and bed with plastic
  • Assemble equipment


  • Place compress in cold water and wring out just enough so it does not drip
  • Apply and press firmly; if patient is sitting up while receiving treatment, compress must be long enough to be wrapped around head so it will stay in place, otherwise just across patient's forehead is adequate
  • Renew frequency, every 1-5 minutes; have basin right beside you

Completion of Treatment

  • Remove compress and dry skin thoroughly
  • Make sure patient's hair is dry
  • Pillows and bedding should be left dry (change if they are wet).

(Thanks Paul)


from Dr JH Kellogg's Hydriatic Techniques...

  • 18, 12-20°C / 69, 54-68°F change every 5min if thick and saturated
  • Dry Friction every 20min to reaction

Revulsive Antiphlogistic in

Cooling cardiac compress:-

  • folded towel and cover over the front half of the chest
  • wet with water 15-20°C / 60-68°F.