What do I need to know about a warm compress or soak? 

    A warm compress or soak helps improve blood flow to tissues and relieve pain and swelling. This will help you heal from an injury or illness. You may need a warm compress or soak to help manage any of the following: 

          A sinus infection or upper respiratory infection

          A blocked tear duct, eye infection, or a stye

          A skin abscess or infection

          An ingrown toenail

          An ear infection

          A soft or deep tissue injury

          A muscle or joint injury, such as a sprain

    How do I prepare and use a moist warm compress? 

    Your doctor will tell you how often to apply a warm compress: 

          Wash your hands

          Use a washcloth, small towel, or gauze as your compress

          You can place the compress under running water or place it in a bowl with warm water. Check the temperature of the water with a thermometer. The water should not be warmer than 37.8℃for babies, 40.1℃for children, and 48.9℃for adults. Adults should use water that is 40.1℃if they will apply the compress to an eye

          If directed, add 1 tablespoon of salt to the water. Squeeze extra water out of the compress

          Place the compress directly on the area. If directed, gently massage the area with the compress. Check your skin in 2 minutes for blisters or bright red skin. Your skin should look pink to light red

          You may need to rewarm the compress every 5 minutes

          Remove the compress in 15 to 30 minutes, or when the compress starts to feel cold. Gently pat your skin dry with a clean towel

          Wash your hands

          Reapply the compress as many times as directed each day. Use a clean compress every time

    How do I use a dry warm compress?

     A dry compress may be a hot water bottle or a heating pad. You can also buy a prepared hot pack. Follow the package directions for how to use these devices. Cover a bottle or hot pack with a towel before you apply it to your skin. Do not leave a dry compress on your skin for more than 20 minutes or as directed. Do not fall asleep with a dry compress on your skin. A dry compress may burn your skin if it is left on for too long. 

    How do I prepare and use a warm soak? 

          Fill a clean container or tub with warm water and soap. The container should be deep enough to cover the area completely

          Check the temperature of the water with a thermometer. The water should not be warmer than 37.8℃ for children and babies, and 43℃for adults

          If directed, add 1 tablespoon of salt to the water

          Remove any bandages

          Soak the area for 30 minutes or as long as directed. Gently pat your skin dry when you are done soaking

          Replace bandages as directed

          Clean the container or tub when finished

          Wash your hands

    When should I contact my doctor? 

          Your symptoms do not improve or you have new symptoms

          You see blisters on the area where you applied the compress or soak

          You have questions or concerns about your condition or care 


    You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. 

    © 2017 Truven Health Analytics LLC All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.



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