Do Snowballs Hurt?

You’re out shoveling your front yard when one of the neighbor kids screams “heads up!” With your knit cap covering your ears and the harsh winds whipping around your face, you barely hear the kid. Then you’re pelted with a wet yet surprisingly firm snowball. Does getting hit with a snowball hurt?

Snowballs can hurt depending on the distance they’re hurled from and the targeted body part. It will be painful to get hit with a snowball in the face and/or head almost no matter the distance. For other parts of the body, the closer the snowball thrower, the more pain that’s in store for you.

In this article, we’ll talk further about whether snowballs hurt, including whether getting hit by one can break your skin or even break a bone or two. We’ll have safe snowball throwing tips later too, so make sure you keep reading! 

Does Getting Hit with a Snowball Hurt?

While we can’t say that snowballs universally hurt, for the most part, yes, they do. A handful of factors will determine just how painful that lobbed snowball is, so let’s examine those further in this section. 

Snowball Size

Although you would assume that a bigger snowball would be more injurious than a smaller one, it seems the opposite is true. Large snowballs don’t hold together very well when thrown; they’re designed more for being rolled into a snowman.

Small, tightly-packed snowballs will hold their shape tremendously well, which means you’re getting the full brunt of the snowball when it hits you. 

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Does the snowball contain only snow or did the thrower roll surface snow, which might include chunks of ice or even small pebbles or rocks? The latter type of snow, besides being far dirtier, can also be incredibly painful. It doesn’t matter your age; getting smacked with a rock-filled snowball is going to hurt. 


Where is the snowball thrower aiming for? If they hit you in the head or face, the pain can be quite immense. By throwing a snowball elsewhere at your body, you’re going to feel it, but you won’t be aching for the next hour or so, just a few minutes. 


The distance the snowball is thrown is also incredibly important. If someone hurls a snowball at you at close range, then even if they choose your abdomen as the target instead of your face, your stomach is going to hurt. 

Compare that to throwing a snowball at your body from a long distance. If the thrower aims accurately and hits you, you’ll feel something, but it might not hurt nearly as much. 

Pain Tolerance

One’s pain threshold grows the older we get until we’re mature adults. Thus, if you hit a kid with a snowball, it doesn’t matter where the target is, they might start screaming and crying. Throwing a snowball at an adult, even if the snowball is the same size and tossed from the same distance, will not elicit that reaction. 


What you’re wearing can dull the pain of a snowball hit. If you have a large, bulky coat on, the coat can take the brunt of the impact so your body doesn’t have to. 

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What Does Getting Hit with a Snowball Feel Like?

Let’s go back to the scenario from the intro. You’re out shoveling, a neighbor kid tries to warn you of an errant snowball coming your way, but you don’t hear them until it’s too late. You realize when you feel something cold on your skin that you’ve been hit. Moments after impact, the pain follows.

What will it feel like? Being hit with a snowball can sting. You might feel a dull, aching pain or a more intense one.

The only good thing about being struck by a flying snowball is that if the snowball hits an area of exposed skin, you’ll be more concerned with the ice-cold temps of the snowball than you will the pain. Plus, the cold water from the melting snow can numb the pain, at least until you get back inside and can put a warm compress on the area. 

What Should You Do After Being Hit by a Snowball?

Oh no, you’ve been hit! Now that you’ve been struck by a snowball, what is your recourse?

For adults, more than likely, nothing. If the snowball is leaving you feeling achy or sore, then it’s not a bad idea to go inside, take off your winter gear, and assess the state of your skin in a mirror. 

If your child has been hit by a snowball and they’re very upset about it, they too should not spend any more time in the cold for now. Once they’re inside, you can treat the area. 

Switching between cold and heat can alleviate pain. You can use hot and cold compresses or even an ice pack and a heating pad. 

If your child has a welt (or you do), gently clean the area using soap and water. Then apply a cold or warm compress on the area to bring down the swelling. You might take an over-the-counter painkiller for an especially painful welt.  

Can Snowballs Break the Skin? Break Bones?

What if there’s more than a welt after being struck by a snowball? Is it possible for a snowball to break the skin? 

Possibly, yes, if the snowball was thrown at an incredibly close distance and it also contained sharp rocks and/or ice. Your skin would likely have to be exposed. 

The resultant injury would be a laceration, which can be of varying sizes and depths. 

More than likely, yours would be a small but shallow laceration. It would cause bleeding and pain, but it would not be a severe injury. By cleaning the wound, staunching the bleeding, applying an antiseptic ointment or cream, and then putting a bandage (or even a Band-Aid) on the wound, the healing process will begin.

Within several days and certainly within a week, your laceration will be mostly healed if not entirely healed. It probably wouldn’t leave a scar.

Okay, so snowballs can break the skin, but what about breaking bones? Even if a snowball contained rocks and ice and was thrown from a very close distance, no, it shouldn’t break your bones. It usually takes hundreds of pounds of force to break a bone, and that’s just not something a snowball is capable of.

Can Snowballs Cause Property Damage?

While you don’t have to worry about broken bones during the next neighborhood snowball fight, you should be concerned about broken property. 

Snowballs–while maybe not quite as bad as baseballs in the spring and summer–can cause some serious harm on your street. Again, snowballs sans rocks and ice will be less damaging, but proximity can make even pure snowballs a threat.

What kind of damage are we talking about here? If a snowball with rocks is thrown too close to a car or a house, it could break the glass and shatter a window or two. Close-distance snowballs can dent car exteriors or knock gutters loose too. 

Tips for Throwing Snowballs Safely

Whether you want to avoid making the kid across the street cry or you’d prefer to limit property damage, here are some tips the whole neighborhood should abide by when having snowball fights. 

Use Pure Snow Only

Pure snow is cleaner and causes less harm when it hits someone else, so that should be all that’s used for a snowball fight. We recommend digging a few inches deep into the snow pile to find firmly-packed snow that’s already perfect for rolling snowballs. 

Never Aim at the Head or Face

One of the top rules when having a snowball fight is to avoid hitting the head or face. If that’s not already a rule on your street, make it one going forward. Nothing ends a snowball fight faster than a facial injury from being struck by snow. The game isn’t fun anymore. 

Don’t Throw Snowballs at Those Not Involved in the Fight

Speaking of snowball fight rules, you know who’s on your team and your opponent’s team. Although they’re easy targets, avoid hitting anyone walking down the street or on their property who isn’t participating in the snowball fight. That goes for other kids who aren’t playing as well as adults and pets.

Always Be Aware of Your Surroundings

Before you throw a snowball, look around you. Is there a house in the direction where you’re aiming? If it’s up the block and there’s no way you could reasonably hit the house, then you’re in the clear to aim in that direction. However, if the house is several feet away, you might want to rethink throwing the snowball. 

Practice Your Aim

A steady and sure aim will hit more of your targets and less of everything else, such as car hubcaps and front porches. You’ll also avoid irritating the neighbors, which is always a win-win! 

Final Thoughts

Snowballs can hurt, especially when they contain rocks and ice. Always be respectful of the people on your street, including those you’re having a snowball fight with. Oh, and don’t hit anyone in the head or the face!

Geoff Southworth

I am a California native and I enjoy all the outdoors has to offer. My latest adventures have been taking the family camping, hiking and surfing.

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