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Cryotherapy for preventing mucositis

What is cryotherapy?

Cryotherapy is the local use of low temperatures in medical therapies.  Evidence has shown that cryotherapy can help reduce mucositis if applied during chemotherapy infusions. 

What causes mucositis?

Mucositis (mouth sores) can be a side effect of receiving certain chemotherapy medications (listed below). Chemotherapy affects rapidly dividing cells. These cells include the lining of your mouth, often leading to mucositis.

How does cryotherapy work?

By eating or drinking cold foods during a chemotherapy infusion, the cold temperature causes a decrease in blood flow to the mouth.  This decrease in blood flow decreases the amount of chemotherapy which helps decrease the risk of mouth sores.

How is oral cryotherapy used?

Eating cold foods and drinks is the easiest way for your child to use oral cryotherapy. 

The following are some food options for your child:

  • Popsicles
  • Sherbet
  • Ice Cream
  • Ice chips
  • Slushies
  • Cold drinks

How long is cryotherapy applied?

If tolerated, your child should continue to eat or drink cold foods during the duration of the chemotherapy infusion.  This is usually 30-60 minutes.

What age child can use cryotherapy?

Any age child can use cryotherapy, as long as they can tolerate the cold temperature in their mouth. 

Typically, cryotherapy is used with school-age children and older.

The following medications (if given over 60 minutes or less) have shown benefit from using cryotherapy:

  • Actinomycin D
  • Bleomycin
  • Busulfan
  • Cytarabine (Ara-C)
  • Daunorubicin
  • Doxorubicin
  • Etoposide
  • Fluorouracil (5 FU)
  • Idarubicin
  • Melphalan
  • Methotrexate
  • Mitoxantrone
  • Paclitaxel


If you have any questions, please ask anyone on your child’s care team.

Reviewed 11/2017

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