Can you use icy hot while pregnant?

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Heidi Woodgate

Icy Hot is a popular over-the-counter topical pain reliever that many people turn to for relief from muscle aches and joint pains. But when it comes to pregnancy, many women wonder if it’s safe to use icy hot while pregnant.

can you use icy hot while pregnant?
Can you use icy hot while pregnant?

Quick Answer

While some of the ingredients in Icy Hot, like menthol, are generally considered safe in small amounts, some formulations contain methyl salicylate and camphor, which may pose potential risks. 

You should therefore consult a healthcare professional or obstetrician before using Icy Hot while pregnant.

Understanding Icy Hot

Icy Hot is a renowned over-the-counter product designed to provide temporary relief from minor aches and pains. It’s especially popular among athletes and individuals with muscle strains, sprains, arthritis, and backaches.

The product’s unique mechanism of action involves creating a cooling sensation upon application, followed by a warming sensation. This dual-action distracts the brain from pain signals, offering a sensation of relief.

The effectiveness of Icy Hot can be attributed to its active ingredients. One of the primary ingredients is methyl salicylate, also known as wintergreen oil. This ingredient is chemically related to aspirin and is responsible for the warming sensation experienced when the product is applied. It works by dilating the blood vessels and increasing blood flow to the area, which can help soothe muscle pain.

However, not all Icy Hot formulations have the same ingredients list. This is why it’s crucial to read the product label, especially for pregnant women. The presence of methyl salicylate raises concerns due to its similarity to aspirin, which, as mentioned earlier, can pose risks during pregnancy.

In conclusion, while Icy Hot can be a beneficial pain-relieving product for many, its safety during pregnancy remains a topic of discussion. It’s always recommended to be informed and consult with a healthcare professional before making any decisions.

How Icy Hot works

Icy Hot is a counterirritant that functions by causing a sensation of cold followed by a warming feeling when applied to the skin. This dual-action distracts the user from the pain by replacing it with these alternating sensations.

The primary mechanism behind this is the dilation and constriction of blood vessels in the affected area, which helps increase blood flow and reduce pain.

The main ingredients responsible for these sensations are menthol and methyl salicylate. Menthol induces a cooling sensation by activating the TRPM8 receptors in the skin, which are sensitive to cold temperatures.

On the other hand, methyl salicylate provides the warming sensation by irritating the skin slightly, causing it to redden and feel warm.

This combination of cooling and warming sensations not only distracts from the pain but also helps relax the muscles and reduce inflammation in the affected area.

Key ingredients in Icy Hot and their effects.

Icy Hot’s efficacy as a topical pain reliever stems from its unique blend of active ingredients. It’s important to note that not all formulations contain all these ingredients, so it’s important to read the label!

Let’s delve into these ingredients and understand their roles:


Menthol is a natural compound derived from mint plants. When applied to the skin, it triggers a cooling sensation by activating the TRPM8 receptors, which are sensitive to cold temperatures. This cooling effect helps distract from the pain and provides temporary relief.

While menthol is generally considered safe, it’s essential to use it in moderation, especially during pregnancy.

Methyl Salicylate

Methyl salicylate is an organic ester that produces a warming sensation upon application. It works by causing a mild irritation to the skin, leading to increased blood flow to the area. This warming effect, combined with menthol’s cooling sensation, offers dual relief from pain.

However, excessive use of methyl salicylate can lead to skin irritation, so it’s crucial to follow the recommended dosage. And its use in pregnancy is discouraged due to its chemical similarity to aspirin.[*]


Camphor is another essential ingredient in Icy Hot. It produces a cooling effect similar to menthol and also acts as a mild local anesthetic, numbing the area of application. Camphor has been used in traditional medicine for its therapeutic properties, but like other ingredients, it’s vital to ensure it’s used safely and in recommended amounts.

Camphor is toxic if ingested and has the potential to cross the placenta. There isn’t enough reliable information to know if applying camphor to the skin is safe when pregnant or breast-feeding, so it should be avoided.[*]


Lidocaine is a local anesthetic that works by blocking nerve signals in the body. In Icy Hot, it provides temporary relief from pain by numbing the affected area. It’s a common ingredient in many over-the-counter pain relief creams and patches. Lidocaine is generally considered safe in pregnancy.[*]


Derived from chili peppers, capsaicin induces a burning sensation when applied to the skin. This sensation distracts from the pain and provides relief. Capsaicin has been used in various pain relief products, especially those designed for arthritis and neuropathic pain.

The safety of capsaicin has been not been established in humans, but topical application has not posed a risk to the fetus in animal studies, so it is classified as a category B compound by the US FDA[*]

Alternative pain relief methods during pregnancy.

Pregnancy often brings along various aches and pains, especially as the body undergoes significant changes to accommodate the growing fetus.

While products like Icy Hot can offer relief, it’s essential to explore alternative methods that are safer during pregnancy. Here are some alternatives:

Home remedies 

Natural remedies can be a safe and effective way to manage pain during pregnancy. Warm baths, for instance, can help relax tense muscles.

Essential oils like lavender and chamomile can also provide relief when used in moderation and with proper dilution. However, always consult with a healthcare professional before trying any home remedy during pregnancy.

Chiropractic or Osteopathic care

Chiropractic or osteopathic adjustments can help alleviate back pain, sciatica, and other musculoskeletal issues during pregnancy. It’s essential to find a practitioner experienced in prenatal care and always consult with your obstetrician before starting any manipulative treatment.

Hot and Cold treatments

Using hot or cold packs can provide temporary relief from pain. Cold packs can reduce inflammation, while hot packs can relax tense muscles. Ensure that the temperature is not too extreme and always place a cloth between the pack and your skin to avoid burns or frostbite.

Importance of posture 

Maintaining good posture during pregnancy can prevent many aches and pains. As the belly grows, there’s a natural tendency to arch the back, leading to back pain. Using supportive pillows, practicing pregnancy-safe exercises, and being mindful of posture can make a significant difference.

Exercise benefits

Regular exercise during pregnancy can strengthen muscles, improve flexibility, and reduce pain. Prenatal yoga, swimming, and walking are excellent options. However, always consult with a healthcare professional before starting any exercise regimen during pregnancy.

Is It Safe to Use Icy Hot While Pregnant if You Can Take Magnesium?

When it comes to taking magnesium during pregnancy, many expectant mothers wonder about the safety of using Icy Hot. While some women find relief from muscle aches and pains by applying Icy Hot, it is important to consult with your healthcare provider before using any topical analgesic during pregnancy. They can provide specific guidance based on your individual circumstances and ensure the safety of both you and your baby.

Risks of Using Icy Hot While Pregnant

Pregnancy is a delicate period where the well-being of both the mother and the fetus is of utmost importance. When considering any medication or topical treatment, understanding potential risks is crucial.

Methyl Salicylate and Its Concerns

Methyl salicylate, commonly known as wintergreen oil, is a primary ingredient in many Icy Hot formulations. Chemically related to aspirin, this ingredient can pose potential risks when used during pregnancy.

High doses of aspirin have been linked to miscarriage during the first trimester and birth defects, particularly heart abnormalities, during the third trimester.

Potential Risks to the Fetus

Beyond the concerns of miscarriage and birth defects, there’s also the potential for other adverse effects on the fetus. For instance, excessive use of products containing methyl salicylate might lead to complications like premature closure of the ductus arteriosus, a vital fetal blood vessel.

Other Adverse Effects

While the primary concern revolves around the fetus’s health, pregnant women might also experience adverse effects.

For example, excessive use can lead to salicylate toxicity, which can manifest as symptoms like nausea, vomiting, tinnitus, and even respiratory alkalosis in severe cases.

Research and Studies on Icy Hot During Pregnancy

While there are anecdotal reports and general advice on the topic, comprehensive research specifically targeting the effects of Icy Hot during pregnancy is limited.

However, the known risks associated with aspirin and its relation to methyl salicylate make it a topic of caution.

In essence, while Icy Hot might offer relief from aches and pains, its use during pregnancy should be approached with caution.

Consulting with a healthcare professional is always the best course of action to ensure the safety of both the mother and the baby.


Pregnancy is a transformative journey, filled with joy, anticipation, and its fair share of discomforts. As the body adapts to accommodate the growing baby, it’s natural to experience aches and pains.

While over-the-counter remedies like Icy Hot can offer temporary relief, it’s safety isn’t well established in pregnancy and there are varying formulations containing ingredients of concern while pregnant.

Several alternative pain relief methods are available, from natural home remedies to chiropractic care. These alternatives can offer safe and effective relief without the potential risks associated with certain over-the-counter products.

In conclusion, while products like Icy Hot can be tempting to use for quick relief, it’s essential to be informed and cautious. Always prioritize the well-being of both the mother and the baby, seeking professional advice and exploring safer alternatives when needed.

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