RICE: a new-to-me medical acronym

I can’t emphasise enough that this is about a small medical experience of my own – it’s not medical advice.  That said, please keep reading …

I needed to pop over to my GP’s last week, and luckily I was able to squeeze in to their “clinic” – which seemed to mean “you don’t get an appointment, just turn up at midday and we’ll see you when we can”.  Fair enough – I was seen at about 12.20, in and out in a few minutes.


I’d been chopping back brambles during the previous weekend – which is most definitely a prep, clearing a garden so that you can plant edibles – and at the end of the day, noticed a bright red area.  A bite?  A bramble puncture?  Who knows, I’d have to have a time machine to find out.  But 24 hours later, there was a big problem, a huge swelling, that increased the size of my ankle by maybe 40% . Not great, not great at all.

Since it was still there two and a half days later, I went to the doc.  After looking at the NHS website, I was concerned there might be an infection, especially an infection of the cellulitis variety, which can be horrendous.  But although it was bright red, it wasn’t sore and it wasn’t tender, so I was hopeful it was something easily sorted.

And it was! I was given the acronym RICE: rest, ice, compress, elevate.

REST: let your body heal a bit.  Not so relevant to me this time, but important at other times. Apparently, it’s best to take 1 or 2 days rest, if indicated by a doctor.

ICE: to take down the swelling, and help the area heal faster.  Don’t put the ice directly on the skin, wrap it in a towel or just use the classic bag of frozen peas, wrapped in a tea towel.

COMPRESS: to help limit the swelling to the injured area, and to give support.  It’s crucial not to compress too much, if you cut off the blood supply to the affected area, you could then give yourself a life-changing, totally avoidable injury.

ELEVATE: elevating to ease the pressure on the wound, and to help gravity with the healing.

More detail on all of this is available on this website, from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, which is the only one I could find, oddly.  There’s a WebMD page too.

Because of the particulars of my little wound, I was also advised to use an antihistamine, and an antiseptic cream such as Savlon. Job done.

It did start me thinking about wounds like this in relation to prepping, however.  If it had been an infection, that would have depended upon antibiotics to cure it – and antibiotic useage is in deep trouble right now, as all the drugs we have are becoming less effective, and resistance has recently been discovered even to the antibiotic of last resort, as described in this BBC report from the end of last year.  And everyday gardening is mentioned in that report, incidentally.

Once I’ve been wearing my heavy duty gardening gloves, I’ve become pretty cavalier about protection whilst gardening: that’s going to change.  Ankles are vulnerable too, even in sturdy sandals like mine, there are plenty of openings that leave you vulnerable to problems.  I really don’t fancy becoming a statistic in the Antibiotics Apocalypse, even though that phrase is only a marketing headline, it does sum up what could well be a severe problem in the future.

5 thoughts on “RICE: a new-to-me medical acronym

  1. Kev, that Jeffrey Sterling link is pure gold, thanks for posting that! I was fairly sure it wasn’t an infection, even though I was worried about Cellulitis, but that leaves a tick bite wide open, and they’re becoming increasingly common, I believe. I’m certainly going to wear more protective clothing, even in my own back garden, this experience has been a real eye opener.

    1. Thanks for that, Colin – I know my GP practice isn’t particularly hot off the starting blocks, even locally, so it’s good to know the most recent evolution.

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