Your feet get pretty rough treatment during disasters. You go from driving most places and being able to rest and take off your shoes and socks frequently to almost constant walking with few chances to get some new socks or clean your shoes each day. This can actually do a great deal of damage to your precious feet, and so it is extremely important to know how to keep them from suffering from foot conditions such as Trench Foot. Caused by a constant exposure to moisture and damaging temperatures, Trench Foot is a truly horrifying condition that will likely become terribly common for refugees in the event of a major disaster. Let’s see what you can do to minimize the chance of losing a few toes…
The origins of Trench Foot
In truth it’s likely affected untold millions of people, particularly marching soldiers, since the dawn of time. The name and condition were made well-known to the average person primarily by World War I owing to the miserable conditions within the trenches that were so common during that war. The amount of freezing mud and moisture in those little tunnels of earth in addition to the general lowered health of soldiers fighting with constantly interrupted supply lines and the like proved to be a particularly deadly combination. Initially most men would complain of general foot discomfort, which was hardly surprising given the grim conditions within the trenches. As the cold and moisture continued to wear on the feet, however, they would begin to show signs of sickening damage. Feet would be covered in bleeding, broken red skin that had been rubbed raw and as the condition persisted would begin to become infected, resulting in a horrifying scent of decaying flesh and necrotizing tissues. Gangrene would set in, killing or maiming many who had been “fortunate” enough to survive death by artillery or machine gun fire.
But I’m not living in trenches!
True, but cold and wet are found in plenty of places besides trenches. Indeed, some people who participated in open-air concerts and festivals during periods of heavy rain have complained about some of the early signs of Trench Foot including raw and painful skin. Of course after the event they had the luxury of going home to a warm, safe place where their feet could heal which saved them from the more terrible effects of this condition. Someone who was bugging out or lost in the wilderness would not have that ability though, and certainly refugees without home or supplies wouldn’t either. As such, you will have to intentionally compensate to ensure that you and your family are not stricken with infected and rotting feet.
Best practices for preventing Trench Foot
- If you are in a group, assign each person the responsibility of looking after someone else’s feet. People will tend to try to “man up” and walk through the pain of blistered and raw feet if left to care for their own. If told to look after someone else, however, it is surprising how often even a grizzled mountain man can turn into a clucking mother hen as they carefully check each toe for signs of damage. Make it clear to everyone from the start that Trench Foot slows people down and causes unnecessary loss of antibiotics and other medicines fighting infections to encourage further diligence in foot inspections.
- Order foot inspections each time you stop to rest after an extended march or after wading through puddles or bodies of water. Make it a habit the first few times and pretty soon the group will get into the swing of things without needing to be reminded. If you’re by yourself it is especially important to set certain markers (distance, landmarks etc) for stopping to check your own feet for potential damage.
- Keep drying powder, clean fresh socks, and a small towel or rag on hand for each person. The rag helps by removing sweat and water that is on the foot and in a pinch can be left in a pair of boots overnight to help soak up excess gunk in the padding. Powder is great when you don’t have the luxury of drying feet since the powder helps minimize chafing and protects somewhat from moisture. The socks are important since wet cloth soaked with sweat or water is the perfect breeding ground for fungi, bacteria, and other infectious materials. Having at least 3 pairs total, one for wearing and two for drying out and cleaning, should keep you in warm, dry socks for almost any journey.
- Wear boots or galoshes suitable to the terrain. If you know you’re going to be slogging through a lot of water get some waterproof galoshes and use them rather than trying to just waltz through in your regular boots. Alternatively, you can also try to walk through water barefoot so long as you can avoid stepping on sharp sticks, broken glass etc. Anything to keep your usual walking boots try and warm to protect your feet.
- When early signs of Trench Foot appear, make extra effort to dry boots and keep feet clean and warm. Trench Foot, thankfully, merely leads to infection rather than being an infection in itself. As such, simply removing the causes (cold, wet feet) can allow the body to heal fairly quickly if the condition is noticed early enough. Apply gauze patches or ointment if you feel it is necessary, then spend time ensuring that the affected person’s feet and footwear are all warm and dry.
Follow these simple tips and you’ll be able to avoid most cases of Trench Foot and keep your feet from becoming foul, rotting, gangrenous messes.
Have you ever experienced the early symptoms of Trench Foot? How to do you keep your feet healthy during long walking treks? Let us know in the comments below!
This article first appeared at Prepared For That: Protect Your Feet: How to Avoid Getting Trench Foot