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Trench foot occurs when an individual spending long periods of time in cold, wet, conditions. It is a type of tissue damage and can lead to swelling, pain, and other disturbances in the feet. If left untreated, trench foot can lead more serious injury to the skin, muscles, blood vessels, and nerves. Therefore, it is important that you understand the warning signs and treatment methods.

Causes of Trench Foot

As we already discussed, trench foot is the result of overexposure to cold temperatures and wet conditions. The symptoms of trench foot can sometimes appear immediately or may take upwards of a week to appear. These symptoms include:

  • tingling or itching (in the affected area)
  • numbness
  • cold, blotchy skin
  • pain
  • swelling

If you begin to feel any of the symptoms listed above, act immediately, move to a warm area, disrobe of wet clothes and remain indoors until conditions lessen. If not, you risk permanent damage.


Trench foot does not happen all at once. One must have consistent exposure to the elements in order for it to occur, and the longer you are exposed, the larger the issue becomes.

  • Stage 1 (injury): Blood flow becomes restricted, and tissue will become cold and numb. The limb may appear red or white but there will be no pain.
  • Stage 2 (post-injury): After warming the affected limb, it may turn from white to blue, staying cold and numb, followed by swelling.
  • Stage 3 (hypothermia phase): Lasting between 2 weeks to 3 months, the limb becomes red and hot, followed with pain (blisters may form)
  • Stage 4 (post- hypothermia stage): Possible permanent damage. Characterized by sensitivity to cold, pins and needles, and pain.


If you think you may be experiencing trench foot, remove yourself from the area immediately and seek medical attention. One must be careful not to immediately begin warming the foot, as this can lead to further tissue damage.

When treating yourself or someone else for trench foot, ensure the following:

  • The affected foot is thoroughly cleaned and dried.
  • Wear clean, dry socks are used.
  • Submerge affected foot in warm water (102° – 110° F) for approximately five (5) minutes.
  • Do not wear socks while sleeping or resting.
  • Seek professional medical attention as soon as possible.

If you are worried about trench foot or have any questions or concerns, please contact us today! We are professional safety technicians and will make sure that your jobsite, employers, and employees are prepared for and understand safety hazards.

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