Cold Mitten Friction

Dr Kellogg

Dr Kellogg says...

Cold Mitten Friction

Gentle friction or stroking must be avoided when it is desirable to promote reaction; vigorous friction should be avoided when strong reaction is undesirable. p 680

Cold Mitten Friction, beginning with the arms


from Hydrothermic Remedies...


A Tonic Friction

"A tonic friction is an application of cold water so combined with friction as to produce a decided thermic and circulatory effect." Physical Therapy in Nursing Care, p.101.

Cold mitten friction "is undoubtedly one of the finest hydrotherapy measures known for stimulating circulation in the skin. In turn, this increased circulation is beneficial to the whole circulatory system of the body." Hydrotherapy in the Home, p.4.

The cold mitten friction is classified as a local procedure since only one part of the body is treated at a time.


An application of cold water with friction of Turkish towel, friction mitts, or loofah mitts.

Purpose and Effects

  1. To stimulate circulation of the skin (dermis)
  2. To increase the rate of blood flow
  3. To increase white cell activity and antibody production
  4. To stimulate neuromuscular tone
  5. To reduce fever
  6. Vasomotor tonic


  1. Convalescence after Fevers
  2. Hyperthyroidism (pre-operative and post operative)
  3. Nervous Tension and Exhaustion
  4. To build up resistance to cold and general Low Resistance
  5. Poor General Circulation
  6. Generalised Weakness and lack of endurance


  1. When patient is chilled
  2. Skin lesions or eruptions on area to be treated


  1. Sheets or two bath blankets
  2. Mitts
  3. Pail or large basin of cold water (4-21°C / 39-70°F)
  4. Bath towels
  5. Material for hot foot bath and cold compress for the head


Important Considerations

  • Make sure the patient is warm, especially the feet
  • Do not expose more than one part of the body at a time, avoid chilling
  • Avoid skin lesions
  • The patient must be kept warm and dry after treatment
  • Success of the cold mitten friction depends on the speed and vigor of the treatments
  • Best of all means for training to react to cold

Tonic or stimulating effects are increased with

  • Colder water temperature
  • Repeated dipping of mittens (1-4 times)
  • Longer duration of the application
  • Increased vigor of friction applied

Preparation for Treatment

  • Protect the bed from dampness, use a bath blanket under the patient if necessary
  • Explain the treatment and purpose
  • Assemble the materials
  • Water temperature 15-21°C / 60-70°F lowering temperature 1-2° each treatment down to 4-10°C / 40-50°F


  • Make sure the patient is warm, especially the feet
  • Do not expose more than one part of the body at one time
  • Avoid skin lesions
  • Wring mittens quickly from cold water, rub vigorously for 5-8 seconds
  • Quickly cover part with dry towel and dry with friction
  • Cover the area with dry bath blanket and proceed with the next body part
  • Start with extremities first, then chest and finally the back
    • Arm -1. uncover one arm and have patient hold her arm up
    • 2. Start rubbing at fingers and work up to (and include) the shoulder
    • 3. Flip mitts around so the part that was at the back of your hand is now on the palm
    • 4. Work down from shoulder to fingers
    • 5. Dry quickly with friction and cover
    • 6. Repeat to other arm.
    • Leg 1. Expose one leg and have patient bend up the knee with foot on the bed
    • 2. Start rubbing at the toes and work up to and including the hip
    • 3. Flip the mitts around and work down from hip to toes
    • 4. Dry with friction and cover
    • 5. Repeat to other leg
    • Chest - Uncover the chest and rub the chest, flip the mitts and repeat
    • 2. Dry quickly and ask the patient to roll over to prone
    • Back - as for the chest.

Completion of Treatment

  • Be sure the patient is warm and dry
  • Have patient rest 30 minutes after treatment
  • The cold mitten friction may be part of another treatment such as the Fomentation


from Dr JH Kellogg's Hydriatic Techniques...

10, 0-20°C / 50, 32-68°F, 2x a day, make sure each part has reaction

If skin is cyanotic use with heating treatment


Graduate by beginning with cool water, well wrung, and finally ice-water (or Saline Bath) and unwrung mitt in:

Antipyretic 1-8°C / 34-46°F

most valuable, always indicated except where sweating freely - especially Retention Fevers and Typhoid Complications

Local Cold Mitten Friction

Revulsives and Derivative


from Dr GK Abbott's Prescriptions...

  • Patient must have warm feet -use Hot Foot Bath if needed
  • Begin with cold water, with 1 dip of the mittens for each part and vigorous rubbing until well warmed.
  • Dry then rub with dry hand.
  • With each succeeding treatment decrease the temperature until ice water is used and the mittens dipped 3-4 x.
  • Move on when the patient can react well.