Assume that a magician has the ability to create both flames and ice. His Muggle (for the lack of a better word) friend is wounded and is bleeding profusely. Traditionally, in most fantasy books where modern technology does not exist, cauterization would be used to seal that wound. However, I know that realistically cauterization is a contentious method of stanching blood flow. Since this magician can manipulate ice as well, would sealing a wound with a sheet of ice over the wound be preferable to searing the wound with fire? Assume that the magician can reinforce the ice sheet at any time. I should also mention that I do not mean for the ice to be a permanent solution—just a method to prevent the friend from bleeding out on the spot.

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    $\begingroup$ Ice would accelerate the bleeding and cause a faster death...but it's good for reducing pain $\endgroup$
    – Charon
    Commented Aug 10, 2016 at 14:18
  • $\begingroup$ Usually I'd associate water or air magic to heal a bleeding wound. Using fire or ice sound intriguing and [painful at the same time. Why not using both, see what will happen? $\endgroup$
    – Crestial
    Commented Aug 10, 2016 at 14:35
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    $\begingroup$ @渡し守シャロン Cold slows bleeding, it doesn't accelerate it. Ice fights inflammation by restricting blood vessels, heat expands them to increase blood flow to speed up platelet/white cell healing. $\endgroup$
    – TylerH
    Commented Aug 10, 2016 at 20:07
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    $\begingroup$ +1 both for an interesting question, and for maintaining the traditional distinction between stanch and staunch. :-) $\endgroup$
    – ruakh
    Commented Aug 10, 2016 at 20:21
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    $\begingroup$ Can the magician summon up a tourniquet? For most bleeding wounds, especially on limbs, a tourniquet is the best option. $\endgroup$
    – dotancohen
    Commented Aug 11, 2016 at 7:08

5 Answers 5


Both are useful in different ways.

Ice: Ice will not staunch the bleeding in any meaningful way unless you were to actually freeze the tissue/blood.

But this is a terrible idea as the cells in your body are primarily...water. Water does what when it freezes? Right, it expands. When your body freezes the cells literally burst. This is what we of course call 'frostbite.' Once they thaw you have simply exacerbated the wound and as you can't heal while frozen there is no way to remedy the situation.

So in short, trying to use ice to staunch a wound with either do nothing or make things worse.

On the positive side ice can be used to clean the wound before it is sealed (although it may not be totally necessary...which Ill get to on fire). It can also be used to treat swelling after the fact which even though very simple could help save a fair number of lives.

Fire: Its going to hurt like crazy and it is less ideal than...you know stitches, but of the two options, fire is the only thing that will allow you staunch the wound in your scenario.

In short you burn flesh to seal things up. We know from history that it works and was used for a long long time before medicine became a practice and came up with better options.

One piece of misinformation is the idea that the process of cauterizing a wound sterilized it and kept infection at bay. While partially true, as fire will certainly kill bacteria, the process actually makes the tissue more prone and friendly to bacteria.

Best process.

  • Use fire to cauterize the wound. You could optionally clean it with ice water before hand...this might help...but frankly...if you are cauterizing to save a life...

  • Once the wound is cauterized wrap it and keep it as clean as possible

  • Ice the wound to keep swelling down. You should generally (with the exception of run away fever) never apply ice directly to the wound. Putting cloth or something in between is best. Ice can potentially save limbs...things can burst if swelling gets out of hand. Also never underestimate the value of clean drinking water when healing.

  • $\begingroup$ I'm curious about the downvote... $\endgroup$
    – James
    Commented Aug 10, 2016 at 16:25
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    $\begingroup$ Aren't we all? There is always a downvoter; we can only hope they aren't serial. $\endgroup$
    – wizzwizz4
    Commented Aug 10, 2016 at 18:00
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    $\begingroup$ Actually, to clarify, freezing is WAY more than expanding. It actually creates a crystal structure, causing the water molecules to take up more room. This structure is actually EXTREMELY sharp at the molecular level, so it cuts up your cell membranes. The reason why thawed food are all mushy is because all the cell structures have been shredded internally by the frozen water molecules.. $\endgroup$
    – Nelson
    Commented Aug 11, 2016 at 9:06
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    $\begingroup$ I think you should add into your answer the possibility of shock. With fire, you have an instant possibility of the casualty going into shock (i mean on top of the blood loss). With ice, you are continually cooling the body (and worse still, the blood), which means theres an ongoing chance of shock. $\endgroup$
    – Jmons
    Commented Aug 11, 2016 at 10:28
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    $\begingroup$ You might use ice to numb the feelings, before you fry, ahum heal your muggle. $\endgroup$
    – Martijn
    Commented Aug 11, 2016 at 10:44

Fire, most definitely. Cauterization works because the vessels are literally fused shut. The blood has a barrier to stop against. Tissue is destroyed, but will heal again in most cases; even if by painful skin grafts.

Ice would constrict the vessels and slow the bleeding but it would not stop. The warm blood against the ice would just constantly melt the ice and you'd end up with a wet bloody mess. In a cold environment, this would end up killing the "patient" faster.

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    $\begingroup$ What about the fact that the ice is a physical blockage to the escape of blood? I mentioned that the magician can constantly replenish the ice, so there would be minimal melting. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 10, 2016 at 14:36
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    $\begingroup$ Then the ice would effectively be a bandage that also cools down the wounded area. Short term that would probably work better than the fire, since you only heed to heat it up a bit and the bandage and treat it properly. The longer you leave it on, though, the bigger the risk of frostbite and associated dangers around the wound. It also depends on the environment, how dangerous losing temperature is. $\endgroup$
    – Grollo
    Commented Aug 10, 2016 at 14:40
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    $\begingroup$ @lightweaver, he may be able to do it, but it wouldn't be effortless. He'd constantly need to be replenishing that ice patch. I guess it all depends on where they are, how far they have to go, whether or not the magician needs his full wits to get them to safety. Cauterization is expediant and needs only a bandage to keep it clean. The ice would be a nice pain relief after cauterization though and a way to keep swelling down on the wound. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 10, 2016 at 14:47
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    $\begingroup$ Or laying ice on the surrounding tissue just before cauterising, then ice on the burn. $\endgroup$
    – wizzwizz4
    Commented Aug 10, 2016 at 17:58
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    $\begingroup$ Ice is far worse than "you'd end up with a wet bloody mess". It will induce hypothermia, which is one pillar of the famous (in the medical community) Trauma Triad of Death. The others are acidosis and coagulopathy, and these three form a positive feedback accelerating each other. Simply put, the cold from the ice will impair the body's own clotting processes. $\endgroup$
    – Ben Voigt
    Commented Aug 10, 2016 at 19:35

Medially speaking, neither is enough on their own, even together.

  • Fire can cauterise but it has to be targeted. This "profuse" bleeding sounds deep. Unless you can target it, your magician is just going to toast the patient. The bleeding thing needs to be found and fixed, wound packed, held together and covered.

  • Cold ice can help with vasoconstriction. You're not trying to freeze the wound, just make it cold so all the blood vessels in the immediate area limit the amount of blood they're sending through. Won't help with a profuse bleed (certainly not if arterial pressure) but will help with surface wounds and bruises.

    But it's probably just going to kill them quicker if they're already in circulatory shock. Which they probably are. Ice when they're stable, maybe.

With some medical training and sterile equipment your wizard might be able to save a life. Without that they can just make ice cream and hotdogs (so they're not totally useless).


like most posts above I would have said Fire would be best but then remembered that using modern medicine that ICE might actually be better:


This allows doctors to cool down patients to around 50 degrees Fahrenheit, putting them in a coma for 60 or 90 minutes, when they may have bled out in minutes otherwise. Although I don't know the particulars (like how much transfusion blood this requires), it seems there could be more value in very select situations where said mage would be better off using some very controlled ice magic over the quicker burn it now approach.


Why not both? I'm going to take some liberties here. You magician's abilities have progressed at the same pace, instead of one developing later on his/her magical journey of discovery. With that in mind, your magician would be proficient to the same degree in both schools of magic. Now, in your 'wounded muggle' situation, depending on where the muggle was injured he could approach its in different way. Personally, 'I' would use 'my' ice ability to lower the core temp of the muggle, not in a dangerous way, but as the body is chilled the blood loss should slow. Then depending on where the injury is 'I' would use my fire ability to cauterize the wound. The other approach would be if your magician had medical training as well. He/she could use his/her magical abilities to speed up medical treatment. He/she could channel a block of ice, then use fire to shape the ice into implements. Obviously the medical tools are made of ice and they would numb the area in question. With the tools he/she would be able to perform field triage and save the Muggle's life. The ability to move around without medical implements then make them when they are needed.


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