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Icy Hot is a topical pain reliever that produces a cooling/warming sensation when applied to the skin. The FDA has recently warned that Icy Hot can potentially cause second- or third-degree burns, but the product label does not warn about this risk. A severe chemical burn can cause pain, inflammation, scarring, disfigurement, and may require hospital treatment.

What is Icy Hot?

Icy Hot is an over-the-counter topical anesthetic used to relieve minor or moderate muscle aches and joint pain. The product contains menthol and methyl salicylate. When applied to the skin, blood vessels dilate and blood flows into the skin, producing a warming sensation. The product is not supposed to cause pain.

There are several types of Icy Hot, with different concentrations of menthol and/or methyl salicylate, and different ways to apply the product to the skin. Some of the strongest types of Icy Hot include:

  • Icy Hot Ultra Strength Cream: 10% menthol, 30% methyl salicylate
  • Icy Hot Patch: 5% menthol
  • Icy Hot Roll: 7.5% menthol
  • Icy Hot Sleeve 16% menthol
  • Icy Hot Balm: 7.6% menthol, 29% methyl salicylate

FDA Warning for Icy Hot

In a new Safety Communication published by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in September 2012, experts are warning that topical pain relievers can cause severe chemical burns.

After reviewing the database of adverse events, FDA investigators found 43 reports of chemical burns caused by topical pain relievers. These reports were all confirmed by a doctor, they included reports of second- or third-degree burns, and some people required hospitalization.

Furthermore, the FDA does not currently require labels of topical anesthetics to warn about the risk of burn injuries.

According to the FDA, the most severe burns were caused by products containing primarily menthol, or at least 3% menthol and 10% methyl salicylate. Several types of Icy Hot contain at least this amount of menthol and/or methyl salicylate.

Icy Hot should never be used:

  • Under a tightly wrapped bandage
  • With another source of heat (such as a lamp, pad, or water bottle)
  • On skin that is wounded, damaged, or irritated
  • If it causes irritation, burning, or pain

Icy Hot Chemical Burns

The FDA has warned that topical pain relievers such as Icy Hot can cause chemical burns. Icy Hot is not supposed to cause pain. If it causes pain, the product should be removed immediately. A prolonged chemical burn can cause a second- or third-degree burn. Complications include pain, scarring, disfigurement, or hospitalization.

Symptoms of a chemical burn:

  • Pain
  • Inflammation
  • Swelling
  • Discoloration of the affected area (redness)
  • Blisters on the skin