Trench foot, also called immersion foot, was common in soldiers who had to spend hours upon hours standing in trenches with cold water up to their ankles or knees. But it can occur in anyone who stands in cold water (33 to 59 F) or wears wet socks or shoes for long periods in the cold. It usually takes ten hours or longer of these constant conditions—the cooler the quicker. Think campers or water-related disasters.
The constant cold wetness injures the tiny blood vessels that bring nutrition to your feet, leading to foot-tissue damage. Problems range from burning and aching to muscle, nerve, and skin destruction. Trench foot can trigger years of painful, swollen feet, or even partial loss of a foot or feet. There’s no real cure for trench foot, so prevention is essential.
If you have no choice but to go long periods with wet feet, the following helps prevent trench foot:
- Clean, then air dry your feet for eight out of twenty-four hours (preferably eight hours straight). This means no socks. Lying down helps with circulation.
- Wipe your shoes or boots out, and allow them to dry.
- Change into dry socks a minimum of three times a day.
- Keep the rest of your body warm.
- Move your legs around, walk, work your toes, raise up and down on your toes—anything to get the blood flowing.
Dr. James Hubbard is the best-selling author of five books, including his latest, The Survival Doctor’s Complete Handbook. His expertise and down-to-earth style have made him one of the foremost survival medicine experts in the country. Through books; lectures; an online training course; and his popular website, TheSurvivalDoctor.com, Dr. Hubbard shares information about how to deal with medical problems when getting expert care is impossible. His evidence-based tips are a combination of modern medicine, makeshift treatments and Grandma’s home remedies.