Friday, May 25, 2018

Hot feet and military personnel

Who amongst us has not suffered hot feet and particularly in the warm days of summer. I declare, driving along the coastal roads of WA, you can spot the tourists because they are either stuck to the melting tarmacadam or delicately tip toeing over the hot pavement to their cares. Well spare a thought for the forces posted to hot spots in hot countries. Plenty slip, slap, slop but temperatures are so punishingly high they cause the entire body to swell with fluid retention. Feet are no exception.

In the normal course of the day foot volume changes getting bigger as the effects of gravity draws fluids downwards causing oedema, which means boots become painfully tight. Normal perspiration cannot evaporate from the skin’s surface. Sweating is the body’s natural temperature control but when socks become saturated these are the perfect medium for microbes to multiply. Fungus and yeasts thrive in the damp hot environment and the poor soldier becomes victim to severe athlete’s foot often with an accompanying itch to try the patience of a saint. Other minor ailments like ingrown toenails, can become life threatening as bacterial infections fester. No quick visit to the podiatrist on manoeuvres.

Increased hydrostatic pressures caused by oedema encroaches on sensitive nerve supplies causing arches to collapse and severe pains in some cases. Old war wounds of bunions, hammer toes etc., become exacerbated, making it very difficult for the fighting force to move. Temperature extremes for day to night mean the extremities become more vulnerable to frostbite or chilblains. Despite vulnerable feet being an acknowledged in the theatre of war few armed services recognize the need for military podiatrists. The one main exception is the US.

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