Immersion Hand or Foot is a type of non-freezing cold injury (NFCI) caused by prolonged exposure to cold water. It occurs when the hand or foot is exposed to temperatures below 4°C for more than 30 minutes. It can also be caused by exposure to air temperatures below 0°C for more than 4 hours.
The diagnosis of Immersion Hand or Foot is usually made based on the patient’s history and physical examination. The patient may report numbness, tingling, or burning in the affected area. On examination, the skin of the affected area may be pale, mottled, and cool to the touch, and the area may be tender and swollen.
Immersion Hand or Foot should be differentiated from other causes of cold injury, such as frostbite and chillblains.
Treatment of Immersion Hand or Foot includes rewarming the affected area, pain relief, and skin care. The affected area should be rewarmed slowly using warm water, not hot water. Pain relief may be provided with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or topical anesthetics. Skin care may include the application of moisturizers and protective bandages.
The prognosis for Immersion Hand or Foot is generally good with early recognition and treatment. Most patients make a full recovery, although some may have permanent nerve damage.