Health Effects of Cold Water

Cold shower

The application of cold water to the skin for a short period of time-one to three minutes-will cause the small blood vessels in the area where the cold is applied to contract and the skin will therefore appear to be pale. The colder the application, the more rapid and complete the contraction will be. Within a few minutes after the cold is removed a reaction will set in and the vessels will dilate, bringing more blood to the area, producing a feeling of warmth and a healthy blush to the ski. Rubbish the skin while the cold is being applied, as in a cold mitten friction rub, will enhance the effects of the cold water. If cold is applied at a more moderate temperature (70⁰ to 80⁰) for a longer period (over five to eight minutes), the vessels in the skin will dilate, while those supplying the internal organs will contract.

When the blood vessels in the skin contract, the blood is forced deep into the internal organs. Just the opposite effect takes place when the surface vessels relax and dilate. The blood is then drawn from the internal organs to the skin. If any of the organs are congested or inflamed, more blood is removed from them than from the healthy organs, in this way relieving the congestion. In any application of cold, the organs nearest the point of application will be affected to the greatest extent.

Prolonged exposure of the body to cold depresses all the normal physiological reaction in the body, while a short contact of the entire body with cold acts as a general stimulant to all the vital functions, through the action of the central nervous system. Digestive processes, elimination, urine production, respiration, muscle tone, pulse rate, and even some of the endocrine glands such as the thyroid, are all stimulated to greater activity. There is also an increase in the red and white blood corpuscles and in the hemoglobin. It is better to make the application warmer at first and then decrease the temperature gradually so that there will not be a shock or a chilly feeling, and the same results will be obtained. This applies especially to nervous persons, as the sudden application of cold is always a shock. A great many times the body temperature is reduced even though the skin glows and feels warmer. The only accurate way to determine temperature is with a thermometer. It is probably best not to use the cold application at all in persons who are very ill or tired, or in those who dislike or fear cold treatments, or in those who have severe kidney or heart trouble. Before starting any cold treatment, the person should feel warm and not cold or even chilly.

It is important to remember that some people may react poorly to cold, especially if extreme cold is used. In such cases, it is better to stop the treatment or use water at a more moderate temperature.
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