TRENCH FOOT IN WORLD WAR I
Trench Foot was a significant aspect of World War I and played a role in the history of the war. Trench Foot was a medical condition that soldiers on the frontlines of World War I suffered from, due to life in the trenches. It was especially related to the wet and muddy conditions that soldiers on the Western Front were forced to endure.
CAUSES OF TRENCH FOOT IN WORLD WAR I
One of the characteristic features of the trenches of World War I was the conditions that the soldiers faced on a daily basis. In general, the trenches of World War I were dirty and dangerous places, which created a great deal of hardship for the soldiers. This was true of the trenches in all of the main areas of World War I, but it was especially true in the trenches of the Western Front. The trenches of the Western Front stretched through Belgium and northern France, which was prone to heavy rain. As such, the trenches along the Western Front often filled with rainwater, which made the trenches muddy and dirty. For instance, the muddy conditions of the Western Front trenches were famously present in the Battle of the Somme and the Battle of Passchendaele.
Trenches were also miserable places for the conditions they created for soldiers. Just as ‘No Man's Land’ was made treacherous by the rain in Northern France, so to were the trenches of World War I. Soldiers could find themselves in the trenches for weeks at time and with the trenches full of water, soldiers struggled to stay dry. Many soldiers in World War I suffered from a condition known as ‘Trench Foot’, which resulted from soldiers having their feet wet for long periods of time. The skin of the foot would break down and soldier’s feet would become infected. In fact, infection was common due to the terrible and dirty conditions of the trenches in World War I. The condition would make it such that soldiers were unable to fight in the war and some lost their toes and/or feet as a result. As a result, prolonged exposure to wet and dirty conditions led to Trench Foot.
SYMPTOMS OF TRENCH FOOT
As stated above, Trench Foot was a major issue facing the soldiers of World War I who had to live and fight in the trenches. The wet conditions of the trenches, especially on the Western Front, led to the terrible effects of Trench Foot. For example, soldiers undergoing the effects of Trench Foot were known to experience: tingling, pain and numbness in their feet. When the condition worsens, the feet became swollen, and the skin would begin to break down. Finally, advanced forms of Trench Foot saw the foot of the soldier become badly infected as the muscle and tissue of the foot decayed. This led to soldiers complaining of severe pain. In all, Trench Foot is a terrible condition that was extremely painful.
PREVENTION & TREATMENT OF TRENCH FOOT
To combat the spread of Trench Foot among the soldiers on the Western Front, the armies of World War I attempted to educate the soldiers on prevention methods. For instance, the main method of preventing the spread of Trench Foot was for the soldiers to keep their feet dry and clean. For instance, soldiers were provided with multiple pairs of socks and told to change their socks and boots as often as possible. The issue for many soldiers was that they found it hard to find time and space to change their socks. This was especially difficult in water-soaked trenches. As such, the soldiers were also sometimes given other forms of prevention. For example, in some cases, the soldiers were provided with a form of whale oil, which they could use in their boots. The whale oil, when placed inside of the soldier’s boot, acted as a natural water repellent, and kept the soldier’s foot relatively dry. However, this method did not always work and whale oil wasn’t always readily available, which meant that Trench Foot was still a prevalent problem in the war.
Finally, the main treatment for advanced forms of Trench Foot, mostly included amputation. Since Trench Foot in its more severe forms generally resulted in the soldier’s foot breaking down and experiencing terrible infection, there was not much that could be done. As such, when the condition advanced to a certain point, the only option left was for the soldier to lose their foot.
IMPACTS OF TRENCH FOOT IN WORLD WAR I
Trench Foot had a profound impact on the events of World War I. First, it had terrible outcomes for the individual soldiers who experienced Trench Foot. For instance, many soldiers went through periods of intense pain and some lost their feet altogether.
However, Trench Foot also had a broader impact on the war in that it sidelined many soldiers. For instance, the British Army reported that as many as 20,000 soldiers suffered from Trench Foot in the winter of 1914 and 1915. As well, despite efforts to properly prevent and treat Trench Foot, it is estimated that as many as 74,000 British soldiers suffered from Trench Foot in all of World War I. It should be noted that Trench Foot affected all of the armies of World War I, but was particularly dangerous for the armies on the Western Front, which included: Britain, France, United States, Germany, etc. As such, Trench Foot had a terrible impact on the ability of a soldier to continue to fight in the war and led the armies of World War I to divert much needed resources to caring for and replacing soldiers who suffered from Trench Foot.
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