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How Ice Packs are Made 

Ice packs are one of the most common and crucial components of any first aid kit. However, you may not know much about their production - so today, let’s take a look into how ice packs are made! 

Procedures for the production of ice packs? 

Short answer: ice packs have many uses and are an important part of any first aid kit. You can use them for many minor injuries and symptom relief.

  • Ice packs contain a few common ingredients, each with a different purpose to their inclusion. Ice packs are generally non toxic if a tiny amount is consumed, but they can be toxic in large amounts.
  • There are also many alternatives: including cold compresses, frozen vegetables and even some DIY options! 
  • We take a look at some ways to make your own ice pack
First Aid - Ice Pack

What Are The Uses of Ice Packs? 

Ice packs are such a common and staple item that their list of uses is hard to condense. 

However, there are some primary functions of ice packs - many of which you may be familiar with.

They are one of the first line components of a first aid kit, due to their multi usage potential. 

Ice packs can serve in many different applications, but let’s take a look at some of the most common uses. 

 Common ice pack uses:

  • Minor injuries: reducing both inflammation and pain/discomfort
  • In this context, ice packs hold multiple benefits. 

    Both helping to minimise discomfort and treat inflammation, an ice pack can be an irreplaceable item in any first aid kit or household. 

    The uses are endless, but in everything from a twist/sprain to a knocked elbow or bruised limb they can be a huge help for minor injuries.

    When ice is applied to an injured area, it immediately has an effect on limiting blood flow to that area - which can assist in a number of ways. 

    Ice packs help with:

    • Swelling/inflammation reduction
    • Reducing or slowing bleeding (which can be highly important) 
    • Reducing and preventing bruising (such as after hitting a limb, or a fall) 
    • Offering much needed comfort/symptom reduction: including pain, discomfort or throbbing. 
  • Headaches or migraines 
  • Headaches/migraines can be incredibly painful, especially when chronic.  

    Having an ice pack on hand can restrict blood flow as mentioned, which will help diminish some of that pain and reduce the symptoms. 

    The cooling feeling can be highly relieving.

    You don’t need to use ice for this - a cold compress/homemade version is equally beneficial.  

  • Eye pain/allergic symptoms
  • Eye pain due to an injury or common allergic symptoms can be quite unpleasant..  

    Ice packs are a soothing option to reduce swelling, inflammation or irritation in the area - alongside discomfort.

  • Fever or high body temperature
  • Using an ice pack will bring down your overall body temperature and have a cooling effect.

    This can be very useful for a fever or injury/incident that raises temperature (such as infection). 

  • General first aid symptom discomfort/treatment: from insect bites to strains or sprains! 

What is The Gel Inside an Ice Pack?

Even though ice packs are so commonly used, many people are not actually familiar with their contents and what is inside! 

Let’s take a look at the contents of ice pack gel and what their uses are. 

Exterior of the ice pack 

Ice packs are typically made out of a durable outer material known as polyurethane.  

It is leak proof, resistant to harsh temperatures and long lasting - perfectly suited for an ice pack. 

Contents of an ice pack 

Ice packs are made up of a few chemicals that each have different uses.  

The basic components are: 

  • Water/aqua 
  • An agent that lowers temperature (usually propylene glycol)
  • A thickener 
  • Silica gel 
  • A non toxic colouring (usually blue). 

Following are all the contents inside the gel and your pack.   

Water

     An essential, of course! The water becomes frozen into ice. 

Propylene glycol

     This ingredient serves to lower the temperature of the pack.

     There are a few other substitutes, but propylene glycol is probably the most commonly used.

     *This is probably the most toxic ingredient in the ice pack, although ice packs are generally non toxic unless a large amount is consumed.

Hydroxyethyl cellulose (thickening and gelling ingredient)

     A derivative of cellulose, this ingredient is used as a thickener.

     It is contained in many common cleaning products, and allows added strength to your ice pack - permitting it to be reused many times without wearing.

Silica gel (vinyl coated)

     Silica gel is very important to help preserve the cold temperature of your ice pack for longer. 

     It also pulls all the gel ingredients together, and keeps them that way! 

Non toxic blue colouring 

     As you have probably noticed, most ice packs have the traditional blue hue. 

     Some blue colouring is finally added (non toxic).

     Aside from visual appeal, this makes the product stand out and also signifies it is not for human consumption. 

Making a DIY Ice Pack

Let’s dive into how you can make your own ice pack!

Sometimes you may not have one on hand or require a makeshift option.

There are multiple ways you can do this.

Alternative Ice Packs

So, below are the steps to make your own DIY ice pack:

Rubbing alcohol and water DIY ice pack

  • Alcohol helps to keep the temperature low/prevent the pack totally freezing, similarly to the ingredients in an ice pack as we discussed. 
  • Get a zip lock bag, and mix into it 1.5 cups of water and ½ a cup of rubbing alcohol. 
  • Give it a good mix, then pop it into the freezer. 
  • Leave it for a few hours or overnight for best results. 
  • You can add some colour to it if you would like a little extra boost! 

The size of the pack with this method is adjustable.

For a smaller pack, just use a smaller amount of the 2 parts in the above ratio, and pair it with a smaller zip lock bag.

Salt and water DIY pack

Similarly, you can do the above with salt and water too. 

  • Take some table salt - about 2 tablespoons, and add it to 2 cups of water. 
  • The salt keeps the temperature lowered and helps it stay cold without fully freezing. 
  • Leave for a few hours/overnight. 

Freeze a wet sponge! 

This one is a simple and effective household idea. 

  • Simply take a clean sponge, and wet it. 
  • Squeeze it out so that it isn’t soaking but is solidly wet/damp. 
  • Place into the freezer for as long as desired. 
  • Put it into a bag if easier. It might be easier to wait for it to slightly soften post removal, becoming more flexible for use. 

Alternatives to Ice Packs

We covered DIY ice packs, which is one alternative - but let’s have a look at some other ideas!

  • Cold compress 
  • You can create an ice pack substitute by taking a cold, damp towel and wrapping it around the needed area or placing it against it. 

    You can do this by: 

    • Choosing a towel that will fit the area nicely 
    • Dampening it with cool/cold water 
    • Wringing the towel to remove excess water (it should be damp) 
    • You can put it into the fridge to get it as cold as desired 
    • Lastly, wrap it around the desired area. 
  • Frozen fruits/peas 
  • A common alternative you may already have in your freezer, if no ice pack is present consider grabbing a frozen pack of fruit or veg!

    Peas/corn are a good option as their size is more easily malleable.

    If using ice for a larger area, chunkier fruit may suit better.

  • Frozen water balloons or a frozen water bottle 
  • You can use a frozen water balloon or a water bottle as an alternative too!

    The frozen water will serve very similarly to an ice pack.

    Try to select a size that fits your injury.

  • A frozen washcloth/cloth of some sort.
  • This can also serve as a good cold compress.

    Wetting a towel and placing it in the freezer can be a good, simple ice pack alternative.

Related Questions:

Are ice packs toxic?

Ice packs are non toxic as long as a small/tiny amount is consumed.

Generally a taste is not dangerous, but in large quantities they are toxic and you must seek medical attention if they are consumed.

Where can I buy a good ice pack? 

Ice packs are sold in the majority of major retailers, chemists and first aid shops.

There are different variations of them, including instant ice packs. Be sure to check the size you need, and what type you are looking for!

Ice Packs

Takeaway: 

An ice pack is a staple in any home, and any first aid kit!

In this article we discussed how ice packs are made, and some of their most common alternatives.

We also took a look at how to make your own.

An ice pack is a very important addition to have on hand, so however you keep one make sure it is close by!

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