With the rise in hydrotherapy being used at home, whether contrast water therapy or cold water immersion therapy, many folks are asking if it's effective for reducing a fever.
Cold exposure of any sort might seem like a fast way to drop your body temperature when you have a fever, but it's unclear whether either cold immersion or contrast bath therapy works.
Today, there are still questions remaining among researchers regarding the use of hydrotherapy methods for fever reduction.
Although cold water immersion seems like a logical way to reduce a fever, the opposite could be true because of the inducement of cutaneous vasoconstriction, shivering, and sympathetic system activation
To gain a better understanding of when cold water immersion (CWI) benefits your health and when it doesn't, let's dig deeper into research on how cold water immersion and similar forms of hydrotherapy affect the body.
What exactly is contrast hydrotherapy?
Hydrotherapy involves using water in any of its forms (water, ice, steam) to treat various conditions. Contrast bath therapy involves alternating hot water with ice cold water exposure.
While some forms of hydrotherapy such as cold water immersion are effective for various physiological and therapeutic benefits and treatment of health conditions, the scientific evidence is still unclear on some applications like fever reduction or hyperthermia reduction.
Contrast baths—switching from a tub filled with hot water and ice water
Contrast baths are performed by alternating between a hot tub and cold tub of water. Another form of contrast therapy involves transitioning from a hot sauna to a cold immersion tub.
Whichever method is used, repeating changes in temperature causes blood vessels to constrict and dilate, leading to a pumping action of the circulatory system. Some research indicates contrast therapy increases blood flow throughout the body.
Scientific evidence based effects of using an ice pack or cold water immersion for fever
A recent study by Kielblock et al. showed that placing ice packs on the neck or groin are ineffective methods of treatment for hyperthermia. It's important to note, hyperthermia isn't the same as running a fever.
With hyperthermia, the body temperature rises above a certain “set-point” that's controlled by the hypothalamus.
But with a fever, the hypothalamus actually increases the body's set-point temperature. Comparatively, heat stroke is a form of hyperthermia, so keep this in mind.
Is cold water exposure helpful for children with a fever?
Researchers are still trying to answer whether the discomfort of cold water immersion for young children is justified by a reduction in complications stemming from a high fever, such as febrile seizures, and whether this form of external cooling of seriously ill, febrile patients is actually associated with lower morbidity than treatments relying on antipyretic drugs alone.
Answers to this question are crucial because of the unwanted side effects of cold exposure, including shivering, hypermetabolism, pneumonia, pressure sores, and other complications that can arise when sedating and paralyzing drugs are used to reduce shivering.
Hot and cold water therapy health benefits are numerous, aside from fever reduction
Hydrotherapy for Fever
Increases blood flow to flush toxins like lactic acid from the body
Hard exercise routines create lactic acid build-ups throughout the body. While this effect is normal, it can make athletes feel tired and weak due to sore muscles. These effects can be curbed by resting, drinking water, taking magnesium supplements, and following a regular contrast bath therapy routine.
Research has found that contrast bath therapy can decrease the amount of lactic acid found in the body after a hard workout, aiding recovery from soreness and fatigue that comes after strenuous workouts more effectively than passive interventions alone, such as resting.
Reduce athletic recovery time and aid physical therapy
Exercise induced muscle damage is real, and one of the best physical therapy measures afterward is cold water therapy. Many people don't feel that sore until a day or two after they exercised.
This is known in the physical therapist community as delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). Ice cold water baths following a hot sauna session helps improve blood circulation,
Researchers have measured DOMS effects in elite athletes following strenuous workouts and found that contrast bath therapy helped alleviate the severity of their delayed onset muscle soreness, along with its associated weakness more effectively than passive recovery alone did.
Comforts swollen joints and torn muscle fibers
When muscles and joints are injured, the body springs into action, flooding the injured area with fluids and white blood cells to repair the damage.
Consequently, a buildup of these fluids occurs, causing painful pressure and joint stiffness.
Some research has found that alternating between hot and cold baths may help reduce swelling.
For example, a 2016 study of 115 people suffering from ankle sprains found that contrast hydrotherapy lessened ankle swelling in only three days post-injury on average.
Contrast bath therapy needs more research for fever reduction use cases
Using cold water immersion or contrast bath hydrotherapy for fever reduction still needs more randomized trials using clinically meaningful “illness outcome” end points, rather than simple comparisons of rates of core temperature cooling alone.
Best tubs for contrast therapy at home
When you want contrast therapy anytime, RENU Therapy makes it possible. RENU builds every cold plunge tub 100% in the USA, and we provide the best warranty coverage on the market. All of our cold therapy tubs feature world-class, timeless designs that add to the beauty of any home or office.Contact RENU Therapy today to learn more about adding a cold immersion tub into your home contrast therapy routine!