When people come into contact with objects at freezing temperatures, dry ice burns occur. It is counterintuitive to the cold nature of ice.
What is this phenomenon? How do they happen? And how would one treat these kinds of burns?
Continue reading as we delve into the answers to these questions.
What Are Dry Ice Burns?
An ice burn occurs when a person comes into contact with freezing objects or temperatures way below the freezing range.
The initial sensation of unbearable coldness feels like a person’s skin is burning. In reality, the skin is freezing.
Even so, the effect of this ice is like a burn or sunburn. In some situations, the skin may turn red. In some cases, it could even turn white or a very light grey.
As the name suggests, dry ice is the first and most common thing that causes these burns. It is an ice variant made when carbon dioxide is liquefied and subsequently frozen in a holding tank.
Another cause would be liquid nitrogen, which, as the name indicates, is a liquified version of nitrogen. Both of these things are used to cool particular objects.
Ice burns happen when a body part comes into contact with either. As such, these objects pose a great risk to people who work in industries such as food, beverage, transportation, and other industries that need to keep things as cool as possible.
When a person comes into direct contact with this kind of ice or liquid nitrogen, the water in their skin cells freezes, and crystals form inside, damaging the skin and even how the cells are built.
Furthermore, it also causes damage to the blood vessels within. This causes some constriction to take place with the blood vessels. It is dangerous, as it lessens the blood flowing to that body part, causing problems.
Apart from these, other symptoms may also show up with the contact. These include:
- great pain;
- blisters forming;
- skin becoming waxy;
- numbness; and
Many risk factors could increase the risk of getting these types of burns. For starters, prolonged exposure to extreme cold and windy temperatures will likely increase the chances of sustaining this injury. The risk is further increased if a person does not wear the proper clothing to protect themselves.
It also includes whether a person works with this type of ice or liquid nitrogen.
Stepping away from the obvious, several other factors can come into play. These include:
- Diabetes or other medical conditions
- Medications for diseases
Treating Dry Ice Burns
Treating ice burns caused by this type of ice can be done in several steps.
The first step is to warm back up to normal temperatures. People that have obtained these wounds will want to strip away any wet clothes they are wearing. Then, prepare warm water around the temperature range of 40˚C.
Soak the wounded area in warm water for about 20 minutes. Repeat the process after a 20-minute break if it is still in pain.
Supplement this step by adding a warm compress and blankets to the area.
Remember to mind the temperature of the water. If it is too hot, it may cause more damage to the ice burn wound.
Treating Blisters and Wounds
It is entirely possible to get blisters with these burns. If that happens, clean the affected area at once to ensure no germs get into it. Preferably, a gauze that doesn’t stick to the skin is best in this situation.
At the same time, applying an ointment can also help soothe the burn.
For pain, medications can be obtained over the counter. These pain relievers can help as the treatment is ongoing.
Once the area is in the process of being healed, more salves can be applied to manage the pain. One common salve is aloe vera.
Know When To Go To a Doctor
If severe tissue damage may have occurred after all of these treatment tips, the afflicted area is still cold, numb, or hard. This is when people should see their doctors, who can recommend other treatments.
These treatments may include surgery to remove damaged tissues, more effective medications, or options.
Handle With Care
Dry ice and liquid nitrogen do have their uses in the world. However, they are also capable of inflicting dry ice burns. Handle both of these items with care if you work in the food or transportation industries or if you encounter them in your life.
The reality is that accidents and incidents come out of the woodwork throughout one’s lifetime. With that as a certainty, it is best to – proverbially – brace for the coming storm and stay prepared for whatever life throws at you. Learn how to handle medical emergencies and other similar situations with first aid training.
Learn more with CPR First Aid’s Liverpool course today.