Can you get sick from eating snow?

In this brief article, we will answer the question, “Can you get sick from eating snow?”. Moreover, we will make it clear whether eating snow is good for our health or not. Apart from this, we will also discuss how much snow is tolerable for us, some snow recipes, and the harmful effects of eating snow. 

Can you get sick from eating snow?

Yes, you can get sick from eating snow. Snow is injurious to health. With the passage of time, the amount of pollutants in snow gets increased. These pollutants make snow the worst option to eat. But in some cases, it is possible that snow might not cause any harmful effects. But these cases are rare.

A small amount of snow is not harmful to eat

The basic reason why eating snow is considered a bad option is pollution that is caused in our body after eating it. But most of the time the number of pollutants in the snow are less. It has been found that snow in rural areas is safer to eat as the number of contaminants in these areas are less. Researchers have made it very clear to avoid eating ploughed snow.

What makes snow contaminated?

After carrying out research, scientists have found out that the following things contaminate snow:

  • Old pesticides
  • Dirt
  • Soot
  • Bacteria

The amount of these contaminants increases with time.

Some snow recipes

Although snow is detrimental to health. But some recipes are very famous which are used extensively. These are as follows

  • Snow ice cream– It is made by combining milk, sugar, snow and vanilla.
  • Snow candy– This is made by combining snow with maple syrup that is drizzled on top.
  • Snow cones– These are made by topping snow with a mixture of sugar, water and a flavouring agent.

Snow that is more harmful

Although, overall it is not a good option to eat snow. But snow from some particular places is more harmful as compared to others.

  • Snow that is present on plants or trees must never be eaten.
  • First flakes of snow are more injurious as compared to flakes that come after it.
  • Discoloured and ploughed snow is more harmful
  • Snow which forms the first layer on earth must not be eaten

It has been suggested to wait for a few hours after a snowfall, if you really want to eat snow in any condition, so that there may be fewer contaminants in it. The number of pesticides in freshly fallen snow is not much. So, consuming it in lower amounts may not be detrimental to health. 

However, when snow falls it soaks up many harmful chemicals like toluene, xylene which are carcinogenic. So, it is generally better to avoid eating snow. 

How to safely consume snow?

Some people like hikers, mountaineers need to utilize snow water. For safe consumption, they should consider the following tips:

  • In case if snow is falling it is better for them to eat it after collecting it directly from the sky. Snow should be eaten right away in that case.
  • If snow is already there, the exposed surface must be first removed and then snow from beneath the exposed surface must be utilized. 

Harmful effects of eating snow

Although snow looks very attractive, it causes so many harmful effects when we eat it. Some of them are described below:

  • Snow acting as a brush: While the snow falls, it acts like a brush that removes many contaminants from the atmosphere. If we ingest this snow then these chemicals automatically enter our bodies. 
  • HBTEX level: Even if snow contains low levels of BTEX (6 HBTX-S – Triple-Lok 37° Straight HTX | Hydradyne LLC), it can cause dizziness and headaches. If it contains a higher concentration than BTEX can lead to kidney issues, cancer and sometimes death.
  • Active surfaces of snow: Snowflakes have multiple types of surfaces some of which are active sites. These sites absorb many chemicals and make snow a bad option to eat.
  • Snow causes dehydration: By eating snow our body becomes dehydrated. To melt snow from solid to liquid from our body requires an appropriate amount of energy. So water is utilized leaving our body dehydrated.
  • Eating snow is like eating pollution flavoured popsicles: Harmful effects of snow are similar to the effects that are caused by eating pollution-flavoured popsicles. It causes the adverse effects of harsh chemicals which are present in the car exhaust fumes.


In this brief article, we have made clear whether eating snow is good for health or not. Apart from this, we have discussed how much snow is tolerable for us, snow recipes, and the harmful effects of eating snow. 

If you’ve enjoyed ”Can you get sick from eating snow?”, take a look at ”Can you get sick from eating icicles?” too.


Hi, I am Charlotte, I love cooking and in my previous life, I was a chef. I bring some of my experience to the recipes on this hub and answer your food questions.