Why Do Hospitals Give Ice Chips?

Although the hospital can be a place of both happiness and sadness, one thing that can turn a smile on almost any face in there are ice chips (also known as nugget ice)

Many people think that ice chips are just little pieces of ice, but there is actually a lot more to them. Ice chips have a variety of uses, from cooling down a drink to easing a sore throat.

They can also be used as a form of ice massage or physical therapy. Ice chips are made by crushing ice into small pieces either with a tea towel and a hammer or with commercial ice makers. They come in different shapes and sizes.

These crushed ice can then be put into plastic bags or wrapped with a tea towel to be used for physical therapy such as icing down inflamed ankles or body parts.

what is ice chips

But why do hospitals give ice chips? And what kind of ice machines do they use? Keep reading to find the answer!

Table of Contents

What Is Ice Chips ?

They are one of the many types of ice and hospital ice chips generally come in small pieces and are usually more flattened out compared to a general ice cube. Also called flake ice, you could even make this in the comfort of your home within a few minutes as per the image above. 

what is ice chips

Generally ice chips or flake ice last longer in a drink and its nicer to munch on as well as its not a large square piece but instead small slabs of ice.

Be it from DIY chips or ice dispensers/ice machines, these types of ice are the best choice to save money be it to ice inflamed ankles or for patients to suck on for hydration.

Did you know that ice chips are sometimes given during chemo sessions to reduce the sores in your mouth?

When keeping ice chips in your mouth, the coldness of the ice will actually constrict the blood vessels that are within the inner linings of your mouth and therefore prevent mouth sores caused by chemotherapy. 

Benefits of Ice Chips:

Why Hospitals Give Ice Chips

Hospitals usually provide their patients with ice chips for hydration. A lot of patients experience difficulties and have a hard time consuming liquids due to surgery or other restrictions. Therefore, ice provides an easy alternative for these people to hydrate.

Patients can simply chew on the ice nuggets or have them melt in their mouths in order to help them with their daily water intake. As patients chew ice throughout the day, it’s possible for them to hydrate themselves without having to actually drink any liquids.


Especially for these groups of people it’s important to be hydrated as it helps them to:

Why Can You Only Have Ice Chips Before Surgery?

The fact that you’re only allowed to have ice chips before surgery (if you are allowed to have anything) has to do with anesthesia. There’s a high risk of vomiting if you’re put under anesthesia while having a full stomach therefore it makes sense for hospital ice or soft ice to be given to a patient instead of food.


Vomiting can be very dangerous if it happens during anesthesia as it can lead to choking and other undesirable outcomes that might have a negative effect on the overall success of the surgery.

What Kind Of Ice Maker Do Hospitals Use?

In general, countertop ice makers are very popular in a hospital setting and other healthcare settings. This is due to the fact that they make great cubed ice/soft ice and can just be left on no matter how many hours to limit the chance of accidental contamination (which in turn reduces the chance of producing white nugget ice).

A lot of modern countertop nugget ice makers dispense soft ice directly into an ice bucket or cup at the simple press of a button.

nugget ice maker

This eliminates the need for anyone to have to use a scoop to grab the ice, which decreases the chance of contaminating the ice supply.

Nugget ice maker

Routine maintenance is also needed for the hospital ice maker/hospital ice machine and ice storage facilities from a hygiene point of few.

So it’s definitely better from a hygienic point of view, which of course is very important in hospitals.


So to conclude, hospital staff provide their patients with ice chips due to the simple fact that it helps them stay hydrated before and after surgeries.

If you are looking to upgrade your healthcare facilities for your common spaces or waiting rooms with the best ice machine, check out our list of The Best Self Dispenser Nugget Ice Makers!

A good way for both your patients and visitors or your staff members to stay cold/cool on a warm day, it makes sense to make commercial ice available to them instead of manually crushed ice to allow them to enjoy their carbonated water/drinks.

If you want to enjoy ice chips in the comfort of your own home, I recommend checking out my homepage. It’s filled with information, reviews, and buying guides about the best modular ice machine such as water cooled ice machines or air cooled ice machines.

If you have any other questions, feel free to let me know in the comments below!

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