The Wet Sock Treatment is a cold and flu home remedy I frequently recommend because it is incredibly effective and accessible. The Wet Sock Treatment is helpful for regulating body temperature, clearing congestion, and improving sleep. This article explains how the Wet Sock Treatment works and outlines the instructions that I give to my patients.
How Does The Wet Sock Treatment Work?
This hydrotherapy treatment works by using heat and cold to improve full body circulation. When you first put the cold socks onto your feet, your body automatically responds by dilating the blood vessels in your feet, resulting in more blood being moved to the feet, which warms them (1). This increases circulation throughout your entire body. Once the feet (and socks) warm up, circulation returns to normal. As a result, your feet and socks will eventually get cold again and your body will increase blood flow to warm your feet again. This cycle continues throughout the night and you wake up with warm feet and dry socks.
This pattern of blood circulation seems to boost the immune system (2). It also causes an overall reduction in body temperature (1).
When using the Wet Sock Treatment, common cold symptoms and congestion are reduced, and fevers often break during the night. Patients using the Wet Sock Treatment usually report an extremely restful sleep.
Hydrotherapy Treatment Instructions
The Wet Sock Treatment can be done anytime cold and flu symptoms are present, no matter how major or minor. It is usually done overnight, but I’ve also done this treatment during a nap.
- Gather your supplies: a pair of thin cotton socks, a pair of thick wool socks, and cold water.
- Warm your feet if they are cold: Soak your feet in warm water for 5-10 minutes, or take a warm bath or shower if the whole body is cold. This will help to increase circulation and prepare your body for the treatment. Optional: add some epsom salt to your bath and sip on warm ginger tea!
- Wet the cotton socks with cold water and then wring them out. The colder and wetter the socks, the more intense the treatment will be.
- Put on the cold, wet socks. (Kids may need some encouragement.)
- Put the thick wool socks over the cotton socks. It is important that the wool socks cover the cotton socks completely.
- Go to bed. It is best to perform this treatment right before bed. Once you have put on the wet socks and covered them with the wool socks, go straight to bed and keep your feet covered with blankets.
- Remove the socks in the morning. The socks will be dry, and hopefully your symptoms will have improved.
Who Should Avoid This Treatment?
This cold and flu home remedy is safe. However, there are a few groups of people who should avoid using this treatment:
- People who have known circulatory problems in their extremities (for example, Raynaud’s disease and people with diabetes induced circulatory problems).
- People who are unable to identify or vocalize temperature discomfort (for example, people with nerve damage and people with communication difficulties).
Hydrotherapy Precautions During Pregnancy
Pregnant women should avoid increasing blood circulation to the pelvis region, which may increase the risk of miscarriage. For pregnant mamas, I recommend a gentle version or complete avoidance due to the overall increase in blood circulation in the body as a result of the treatment.
A gentle version of this could mean socks not quite as cold, a not too warm bath, and perhaps less time with the socks on. Exercise your judgment and check in with your doctor or midwife for personalized instructions before using this treatment while pregnant.
Hydrotherapy Precautions For Small Children
If used for young kids and babies, it is important to keep a close eye on them for signs of getting chilled or overheated. If kids appear uncomfortable in any way, stop the treatment and help them regulate their temperature. For example, baths or blankets to warm up or cold face cloth over the forehead to cool down.
Wet Sock Hydrotherapy Treatment is a great tool to have in your parent toolbox (or sock drawer)! This simple and effective home remedy for colds and flus works by improving circulation in the body, reducing body temperature, and enhancing immune function. Though it is considered safe, remember to use extra caution while pregnant and when using with young children. People with circulatory issues and people who have trouble identifying or voicing discomfort should avoid this treatment.
- Flouris, A. D., Westwood, D. A., Mekjavic, I. B., & Cheung, S. S. (2008). Effect of body temperature on cold induced vasodilation. European journal of applied physiology, 104(3), 491–499. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00421-008-0798-3
- Lin, C. D., Tona, F., & Osto, E. (n.d.). The crosstalk between the cardiovascular and the immune system. Vascular biology (Bristol, England), 1(H83–H88), 1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7439936/