Trench foot

Trench foot (immersion foot) is a cold injury that occurs gradually over several days of exposure to cold, but not freezing, temperatures. The name comes from World War I troops who developed symptoms after standing in cold, wet trenches.

Signs and symptoms of trench foot include:

  • Red skin that turns pale and swollen.
  • Numbness or burning pain.
  • Leg cramps.
  • No actual freezing of the skin.
  • A slow or absent pulse in the foot.
  • Development of blisters or ulcers after 2 to 7 days.

First aid for trench foot includes rewarming the affected areas, relieving pain, and preventing problems such as infection or dead skin (gangrene).

Last Updated: June 30, 2009

Author: Jan Nissl, RN, BS

Medical Review: Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & William M. Green, MD - Emergency Medicine & H. Michael O'Connor, MD - Emergency Medicine

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