Immersion syndrome, commonly called trench foot, is an injury caused by exposure of the feet to wet conditions at cold temperatures above freezing, but below about 10ÂșC. Trench foot got its name during the first world war, because massive numbers of soldiers living in cold, muddy trenches fell casualty to the condition. Cold, wet conditions cause a reduction of circulation to the feet, and tissue damage/death can occur. At first, the feet are merely cold and numb, without pain. As the condition progresses, tingling and burning pain occur, and the feet begin to swell. Skin color changes form pale and mottled at first to dark blue, purple, or gray. Blisters and bleeding may occur at later stages, and if left untreated, gangrene results and the foot may be lost.

To treat trench foot, gently wash and dry the feet and rewarm gradually by exposure to warm, dry air. Do not immerse in warm water or rub the feet as this will lead to further injury. Seek medical attention as soon as possible.

Trench foot can be prevented by taking measures to keep the feet dry in cold conditions. Change wet shoes and socks as soon as possible. Socks should be changed at least once per day. Antiperspirant can be applied to the feet to prevent wetting from perspiration.

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