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Patient information for care of areas treated with liquid nitrogen

Liquid nitrogen is used to treat viral warts, seborrhoeic keratoses and solar keratoses, as well as some nonmelanoma skin cancers. It rapidly freezes the skin producing changes similar to frostbite and causing destruction of the skin lesion.

Day 1: The area treated will become red and swollen. A blister may develop and occasionally this will be bloodfilled. Blisters are best left alone, but can be burst with a sterile needle if they are uncomfortable or extending.

Days 2 and 3: At this stage the area becomes weepy. If the weeping is mild, leave it open to the air and you can safely wash the area with soap and water. If the weeping is excessive, cover the area with a dressing or alternatively apply antiseptic powder twice a day to dry it up.

Days 3 to 4: At this stage the area will stop weeping and a scab will form. The scab will remain in place for up to a week and then the area should heal without a mark. Occasionally following healing, the skin is discoloured. This is usually temporary but can be permanent.

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