Cold Related Illnesses

Frostbite | Snow Blindness | Trenchfoot


Frostbite is the actual freezing of the tissue or a body part. It often affects the ears, nose, fingers and toes.  Warning signs of frostbite include:

If frostbite is detected, seek medical care.  If there is frostbite but no sign of hypothermia and immediate medical care is not available, do the following:

How to Prevent Frostbite

Snow Blindness

Snow blindness is a sun burn of the eyes caused by the reflection of sunlight off snow or water.  It can be prevented by wearing good sunglasses with side shields or goggles.  Eye protection from the sun is just as necessary on cloudy or overcast days as it is in full sunlight.  Snow blindness can occur during a snow storm, if the cloud cover is thin.  Symptoms occur within 8-12 hours of exposure.  They include eyes feeling dry and irritated then as if they are full of sand.  Moving or blinking the eyes becomes painful.  Exposure to light hurts, the eyelids may swell, excessive tearing occurs and eyes appear very red.  Mild cases will heal in a few days.  Relief can be obtained by using cold compresses and light proof bandaging.  Ophthalmic ointment can be used to relieve the pain and reduce swelling.  DO NOT rub the eyes.


Trench Foot is also known as Immersion Foot and can occur at temps as high as 60°F.  It is a condition that occurs if the feet are constantly wet.  Wet feet lose heat 25 times faster than dry feet.  It is characterized by vascular damage.  Symptoms include reddening of the skin, numbness, leg cramps, swelling, tingling pain, blisters or ulcers, bleeding under the skin and gangrene.  To prevent heat loss, the body constricts blood vessels to shut down circulation in the feet.  The skin dies due to a lack of oxygen and nutrients.  It can cause permanent damage to the circulatory system.  Treatment is similar to frostbite – move the victim to a warm, dry area; remove wet shoes and socks; use warm (105°F) water and seek medical assistance as soon as possible.