Guest Author - Lisa Linnell-Olsen
The last cold weather injury we are examining is trenchfoot, also known as immersion foot. The main cause of trenchfoot is having the feet cold, wet and covered for long periods of time. Trenchfoot is a very painful injury leading to tissue death in the feet. Left untreated, gangrene can set in, and a limb could be lost.
Initial symptoms of trenchfoot include a strong, foul foot odor, itching or tingling in the feet, pain, numbness, and swelling. Once the feet are rewarmed, pain and blistering may occur. Skin and other tissue may begin to fall off. Obviously, due to the serious nature of trenchfoot, medical care should be sought as soon as possible.
Treating trenchfoot is very similar to treating frostbite. Begin by gently cleaning and drying the feet, using a mild cleanser. Be sure to sue warm water, not hot. Once the feet are dry, gently rewarm them. A good way to do this is to put the feet in a warm bath, with the temperature between 95 and 106 degrees F. Placing the feet in front of a fire or heater could warm them to quickly, causing furhter tissue damage.
You can also elevate the persons feet to a level above their hear and try rewarming the feet with your body heat. This is a gentle option that can be done even in remote areas. Once the feet are rewarmed, be sure to keep them dry and warm. Clean, dry socks are really important here. Even after initial treatment and thawing, it is still important to get the person to a doctor to make sure that the trenchfoot is treated completely.
Like frostbite, the risk of reinjury increases once a person has had trenchfoot. The damage done by a second bout of cold and wet conditions is likely to far exceed the initial injury.
Fortunately, trenchfoot is easy to prevent. Wear clean, dry socks when you are outdoors. If your feet get wet, dry them as soon as you can. Having wet feet inside of boots or shoes for long periods of time is what you want to avoid. Even the best winter foot gear isn't going to be breathable if your feet get wet. Consider wearing gaiters to keep snow out of your boots.
Wearing tight fitting foot wear can also increase your risk. Make sure that your boots and socks are the proper size, and not too tight. Carrying an extra pair of socks in a waterproof bag will allow you to change your socks should your feet become wet.
Cold weather injuries can have serious consequences. You now have the knowledge to prevent and treat the three most common cold weather injuries. Having a good time in the cold is all the more possible when the right precautions are taken. May your winters adventures be enjoyable and sage!