Ice bath when sick: Things to consider

Ice baths are becoming an increasingly popular tool for their mental and physical benefits. Once in the routine of regular ice baths, it can feel like an integral part of your week. Whether you’ve recently fallen ill with a minor cold or a severe flu you’ve probably asked yourself if it’s safe to ice bath when sick. This article will explain some of the benefits of regular ice baths, and things to consider when wondering if an ice bath when sick is a good idea.

Benefits of an ice bath

Aiming for around just 11 minutes total a week of cold water therapy can bring many benefits including;

  • Stronger immune system
  • Better physical recovery
  • Increased energy and focus
  • Developing mental and physical resilience
  • Increased dopamine
  • Increased metabolism

These benefits don’t just arise from ice baths, but cold water in general. This can involve natural swimming or a cold shower in the morning. People generally find dedicated ice baths more effective for cold exposure and can be more cost-efficient. Ice baths are said to be a lot harder than cold showers (I’d agree with this statement).

Things to consider having an ice bath when sick

There is various research that has shown cold water could have a positive impact on our immune systems. One study found that having a cold shower every morning for 2 months can decrease the number of sick days by 30%. Most scientific studies make it clear that more research is required to definitively conclude positive impacts on the human body. Unfortunately, in the context of the issue we’re discussing though, these studies don’t include cold water exposure during feeling sick.

Opinions on whether to have an ice bath when sick are split, but they are probably weighted toward the cautious side. Many do not advise to take cold showers if you’re sick. Experiencing extremely cold temperatures can put too much stress on your body, and if this goes past your nervous system’s natural threshold for stress then it can make you feel worse. Having an ice bath or a cold shower is still a stressor on the body, the important factor is making sure it is not overwhelming to build on resilience.

When you are sick your body is already in a state of stress, this means it may be much easier to reach your body’s threshold of stress tolerance. For this reason, some people recommend taking a few days off and returning to cold water when you’re feeling much better. Wim Hof of the Wim Hof method also says to skip the cold therapy parts when sick as these can compound the existing stress on the body.

Choosing to ice bath when sick

Many people do choose to still practice cold water therapy if they have a minor cold, including a stuffy nose or headache. If you are to do this, I think the key thing is to make sure you do not stress your body excessively. If you are used to doing 10 minutes in the ice bath, then maybe cut it to 5 minutes. Similarly to temperature, you can make it slightly warmer when sick to limit the stress on the body. I believe you can experiment with this safely, just don’t push yourself as your body will not have the usual stress threshold as when you’re fully healthy. If done right, you might be able to speed up your recovery to feeling 100%.

My experience

To be clear, I am not a medical professional. I would be cautious when attempting ice baths when sick and you should stop immediately if you begin to feel worse. I personally still take cold showers every day even if I feel sick (unless it’s something like a serious fever), but I’ll never push the boundaries. When sick, I have also had ice baths which has honestly helped my mood, focus, and energy which made me feel better overall. But again, I would never push myself when feeling ill as it could make me feel worse.





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