Posted on 27.5.19 by Gary Boyd
Non-freezing cold injury (NFCI) symptoms are commonly suffered in the feet and/or hands (the most well-known form is ‘trench foot’), typically after a soldier has been cold and wet for a sustained period of time. On rewarming, there is altered sensation and often discolouration with periods of paleness followed by redness, along with swelling and pain.
What is a non-freezing cold injury?
Non-freezing cold injuries (NFCI’s) often lead to long term/ permanent increased sensitivity to cold. Whilst all soldiers are at risk of NFCI, research suggests those of black Afro-Caribbean ethnicity are at 2.8 to 6 times more susceptible. Smokers are also more predisposed to NFCI, which is primarily a neurovascular condition.
What should you do if you have a non-freezing cold injury?
It is important that soldiers noticing any of the above symptoms report them promptly to their medical officer/ centre. They should then be referred immediately for the requisite investigations. These are typically carried out at the Cold Injury Clinic at the Institute of Naval Medicine. Delays in investigation and diagnosis should be minimised because those diagnosed with NFCI should immediately be placed on restricted employment, sheltered from cold and damp conditions and are unlikely to be able to play many sports or to be fully deployable, in order to maximise the chances of recovery.
Making a legal claim for a non-freezing cold injury
It is vital that those suffering with suspected NFCI’s seek early legal advice, as strict time limits (usually three years from the incident causing the injury) apply in bringing claims. This is particularly important in the many cases where soldiers face the possibility of early medical discharge.