No, applying cold water or ice for burns is not helpful.

  • Do not apply ice to a burn.
  • Do not apply an ice pack to a burn.
  • Do not pour ice water over a burn.
  • Do not submerge a burn wound in ice water.

Instead of ice and cold water, apply cool water to the burn. Many experts recommend running cool water over a minor burn for 15 to 30 minutes. Alternatively, you could apply a cool washcloth to the burn.

Carefully pat the skin dry with a clean cloth or sterile gauze and examine it for blisters. If blisters are present, it is a second-degree burn, not a first-degree burn. Patients with second-degree burns can apply a clean, loosely-wrapped bandage, not cotton balls or rags.

Applying Ice or Cold Water to a Burn Can Be Harmful

Applying ice to a burn may cause frostbite, otherwise known as a cold burn. In fact, a 1997 study in the journal Burns found that applying ice to a burn injury resulted in tissue damage. The researchers evaluated the effect of applying tap water or an ice cube following a minor burn with a flint immersed in boiling water. They found:

Applied lint for: Cooling method Result
3 seconds Soak in tap water, 1 minute Little damage
10 seconds Soak in tap water, 1 minute Moderate damage
10 seconds No treatment Moderate damage
10 seconds Apply ice cube, 10 minutes Most severe damage


The researchers concluded that, based on their experiment, excessive cooling of the burn for a prolonged period may damage the skin further. This stands in contrast to the first instinct of a lot of people to cool the burn as quickly as possible. But in fact, a more moderate approach of applying cool running water over the burn wound can be more effective.

Seek Medical Attention for Serious Burns

If you suffered a second-degree burn or worse, seek medical care. Third- and fourth-degree burns require emergency medical care.