Caution and Cold: Identifying Who Should Avoid Ice Baths

Caution and Cold: Identifying Who Should Avoid Ice Baths

Introduction to Ice Baths and Cold Water Therapy

Ice baths, a form of cold water therapy, have gained popularity for their purported benefits in reducing muscle soreness and improving recovery (and for their frequent mentions on the Joe Rogan Podcast). However, it’s crucial to understand that while beneficial for some, ice baths may pose risks to others.

joe rogan in ice bath
Image of Joe Rogan in ice bath; credit: SportsSkeeda,


  • Are ice baths dangerous for everyone?
    • No, ice baths are not universally dangerous, but individuals with specific health conditions should exercise caution.
  • Can ice baths cause any health risks?
    • Yes, ice baths can pose health risks such as hypothermia and cardiovascular stress, particularly for individuals with pre-existing health conditions.
  • Is there a specific group that should avoid ice baths?
    • Individuals with cardiovascular conditions, compromised immune systems, open wounds, and pregnant women should avoid ice baths.
  • Are there any precautions to take when taking an ice bath?
    • Start with shorter durations, gradually increase exposure, monitor body responses, and consult healthcare professionals to ensure safety.

Benefits and Risks of Ice Baths

Ice baths can aid in reducing muscle inflammation, improving blood circulation, and enhancing recovery post intense workouts. They also offer many mental benefits too, such as building up mental fortitude, resilience, and discipline. However, they also come with potential risks such as hypothermia, frostbite, and cardiovascular stress, particularly for individuals with specific health conditions.

hypothermia infographic
Hypothermia Infographic; Credit: Emily Roberts, VeryWell.

Who Should Exercise Caution: Medical Conditions and Considerations

Individuals with cardiovascular conditions, high blood pressure, and Raynaud’s disease should exercise caution. Pregnant women and individuals with open wounds or compromised immune systems should also avoid ice baths due to the increased risk of complications.

image of raynaud's disease
Image of Raynaud's Disease; Credit: John Hopkins Medicine.

Potential Dangers of Ice Baths for Specific Groups

For those with underlying health conditions, exposure to extreme cold can lead to significant risks such as increased heart rate, elevated blood pressure, and in severe cases, can exacerbate existing health conditions. It’s essential for these individuals to consult healthcare professionals before considering cold water therapy. In short, be sensible and always employ some good old fashioned common sense!

Expert Opinions and Guidelines for Safe Use of Ice Baths

Experts like Dr. Dominic King emphasize the importance of understanding one’s health conditions and limitations before engaging in ice baths. Guidelines suggest starting with shorter durations and gradually increasing exposure while monitoring body responses to ensure safety. Moreover, not only does starting with shorter durations minimise any potential risks to doing the practice, but just like we discussed in our Article 'Is 3 Minutes Too Short For An Ice Bath?', it also improves your likeliness of being able to adopt the practice long-term, as a part of your weekly health and wellness routines.

Dr Dominic King, profile photo
Dr Dominic King; credit: Cleveland Clinic.

Alternatives to Ice Baths for Recovery and Cold Water Therapy

For those who cannot partake in ice baths, alternatives like cold packs, cold showers, and the hot-to-cold shower approach can offer similar benefits without the associated risks. These alternatives can be particularly beneficial for individuals with medical conditions contraindicating ice baths.

Conclusion: Making Informed Decisions about Ice Baths

Understanding the limitations and risks of ice baths is pivotal in making informed decisions about cold water therapy. It’s essential to consider individual health conditions, consult with healthcare professionals, and explore alternatives to ensure safety and efficacy in recovery practices.


Header image credit: Celebrity Cruises,

Back to blog