Spring is in the air. However, as demonstrated by the cold snap last week, winter is still rearing its head. Working outside is generally more dangerous than working inside. That danger is magnified in the winter, when you must contend with the elements, including snow, sleet, rain, slippery surfaces and all manner of safety hazards. As discussed in a prior article, the CDC composed a list of the most common winter injuries and how to identify and treat them. This article is the final installment of that series and will discuss chilblains and trench foot.
Trench foot results from prolonged exposure of the feet to wet or damp areas. Wet feet lose heat very quickly, so the body constricts blood vessels to prevent heat loss. Prolonged constriction can lead to reddening skin, ulcers, cramps, swelling, numbness, blisters and gangrene. If you suffer from trench foot, then you should immediately remove your wet boots and socks. Keep your feet dry and avoid walking on them as much as possible.
Chilblains is a condition that affects your skin. It results from prolonged and repeated exposure to cold temperatures. The exposure causes damage to your capillaries. It mostly affects extremities like hands, noses, fingers, ears and cheeks. Chilblains is typified by redness and itching skin, blistering, inflammation and, in severe circumstances, ulcer formations.
If you suffer from chilblains, then you should avoid scratching your skin. You may use corticosteroid cream to relieve the itching. If you get blisters or ulcers, keep them clean and covered. Do your best to slowly warm the skin; too fast and it could cause permanent damage.
If you suffered from one of these diseases while on the job, then you may want to consult with an attorney. Your employer has a duty to keep your work environment as safe as possible. That duty extends to protecting you from the cold and to providing you with first aid should you require it.