This Vital Wellbeing blog is about physical injuries and bites! You might be saying what do they have in common. The answer… ice! How many times have you been bitten by an insect or a spider and how many times have you sprained something let’s say an ankle for the purpose of this article… some, a few or perhaps many?

Let’s take a look at the sprained ankle first. The following was written on a “health” site…

“Ice packs are often used after injuries such as an ankle sprain have occurred. Applying an ice pack early and often for the first 48 hours will help minimize swelling. Decreasing swelling around an injury will help to control the pain.”

Hang on… hold up a minute… decrease swelling to control the pain. What?

So the question is … would you prefer to go against what your body is naturally doing? In other words stop the swelling to control the pain. Even though the pain acts, as it should, as a conscious reminder for you not to use the injured area. In “controlling the swelling” to reduce the pain you end up using the area in question (because you cannot feel it anymore, it’s numbed) which creates more damage. Icing is like masking the symptoms. Your body is designed to swell for a reason and icing assists with making you think the pain is not there, having you use it before it is ready creating more damage for it to clean up. Not wise.

Umm… food for thought isn’t it.

Now let’s take a look at an insect bite. Our eldest boy the other day received his first ever sting, from a wasp, whilst playing in the gardens at an island festival. His body immediately – as it should – went into swelling the bite area. Fairly quickly we saw redness and some oozing of fluid from the sting site working just like the blood flowing from your body to clear the grit and dirt and then form the scab when it determines it is clean (see Vital Wellbeing blog post “Got a cut? Lick your wound!”). The oozing fluid we observed at the bite site was increasing as the area increased in natural swelling. It was again another great lesson for our kids to see the immediate power of the body.

Most people however will reach for ice to place on the sting. Well hang on lets take a closer look.

First a question…why is there swelling in the first place?

The body swells the area to contain the venom left over from the wasps or the bees sting. Whilst the body is creating the swelling, the venom is getting contained in one place and the body slowly begins to push the venom containing fluid or “sap” out through the site of the sting as well as build immunity to it. Pain receptors are alerted and provide feedback to the person to refrain from using the area e.g. walking. If you place ice on the swelling you externally numb the area, sending false messages to the brain saying it is alright to move once again. The immune system then becomes under stress because now it is dealing with a moving body which in effect increases circulation. The idea is for swelling to take place, pain to be present, you don’t move which helps to contain the venom and enable the body to build immunity to the venom faster. Genius!

I say it is wiser to allow the body to do what it will naturally do, and not interfere but rather observe.

There is inside of the body a full chemist coupled with a nerve system that knows exactly what to do, when to do it and in what quantities it requires things to be done. It makes sense then to keep the communication channels open between the brain and the body (bite site or sprained site) and back again. A body that can communicate clearly without interference can heal itself.

What a swell way to look at it!

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