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Immersion foot

Last reviewed dd mmm yyyy. Last edited dd mmm yyyy

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Trench foot and cold immersion foot (or hand) are terms used to describe injuries sustained in wet conditions at non freezing temperatures - ranging from 0 °to 15 ° C (1).

Both conditions are clinically and pathologically indistinguishable but have different aetiologies

  • trench foot - originated during the trench warfare of World War I, when soldiers wore wet boots and socks for prolonged periods
    • caused by cold, damp and muscular inactivity. Predisposing factors include tight fitting clothing and boots
    • is numbness followed by pain. The skin is mottled like marble. In more severe cases, there are blisters containing blood-stained serum, and moist gangrene.
  • immersion foot - described during world war II in shipwrecked survivors whose feet had been continuously immersed in cold water (1,2)

The terms “tropical immersion foot” and “paddy foot” have been applied to injuries sustained by military personnel exposed to prolonged wetness in much warmer water. Another condition with similarities to non freezing cold injury (NFCI) is “shelter limb”, which affected civilians who were forced to take shelter in the deep tunnels of the London Underground during the blitz in World War II (1).

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