Frostbite (cont.)

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Cold weather-related injuries without tissue freezing

Chilblains

Chilblains (also known as pernio) are a common type of cold weather-related injury that can develop in predisposed individuals after exposure to nonfreezing temperatures and humid conditions. Chilblains typically develop because of an abnormal vascular response several hours after the area exposed to cold is re-warmed. Chilblains are itchy, painful, reddish, or purplish areas of swelling that usually affect the fingers, toes, nose, or ears. In some individuals, blisters or small open sores may also form, increasing the risk for developing an infection. Chilblains usually last for several days, and the affected area usually heals after several weeks. Though the affected area may remain sensitive to the cold in the future, there is usually no permanent damage. It is not uncommon for chilblains to recur in susceptible individuals.

Trench foot

Trench foot was named after the condition suffered by many soldiers in the trenches during World War I, though it is a condition still encountered today, often found in homeless individuals. Trench foot develops after feet have a prolonged exposure to a wet, cold, environment and is typically a more serious condition than chilblains. Tight-fitting, constricting boots and footwear serve to exacerbate the condition. Trench foot does not require freezing temperatures, and can occur with temperatures of up to 60 F (15.5 C).

The symptoms of trench foot may include pain, itching, numbness, and swelling. The affected foot may appear red, or blotchy (red and pale areas mixed together) or even bluish-black with advanced injury.

As with chilblains, blisters and open sores can develop. With severe trench foot, the tissue dies and sloughs off, and the development of gangrene can occur, sometimes requiring amputation. The usual recovery period for uncomplicated trench foot can be several weeks.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 1/4/2014

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