Cold injuries have long been of medical importance. Baron Larrey's description
of the role played by cold injuries in the defeat of Napoleon's army is a classic work in
this area. During World War II, over 90,000 US soldiers were admitted to medical
treatment facilities for cold injuries. Although cold injuries usually occur in very cold
weather, certain cold injuries can occur when the temperature is as high as 50F.
Special care must be taken to prevent cold injuries when training in cold weather or
during combat in a cold environment. If cold injuries do occur, quick action is needed to
keep them from becoming worse. Five general types of cold injuries covered in this
lesson are chilblain, immersion syndrome, snow blindness, frostbite, and generalized
INITIATE PREVENTIVE MEASURES
The following measures will help to prevent cold injuries.
a. Use a Buddy System. It is often easier for a soldier to detect frostbite and
other cold injuries on another person than on himself. Soldiers should be paired and
instructed to look for signs of cold injuries on their partner periodically. This early
detection of cold injuries will help to prevent more serious cold injuries from developing.
b. Wear Adequate Clothing. Soldiers should wear an adequate amount of
clothing and the clothing should fit properly. Improper fit can impair blood circulation.
Avoid lacing your boots overly tight. Boots that are laced tightly will impair blood
circulation in the feet.
c. Layer Clothing. Soldiers should wear their clothing in loose layers since
layering traps air and body heat. Bottom layers of clothing should be free of cotton
since cotton does not retain heat when it is wet. Synthetic fabrics, wool, and silk are
very good at retaining heat even when wet.
d. Drink Water. Many soldiers do not drink enough fluids during cold weather
operations. Dehydration (loss of body fluids without adequate replacement) can be as
serious a problem in cold weather as in hot weather. Dark-yellow urine is an indication
that the soldier is not drinking enough fluids. During marches, soldiers may need to be
ordered to drink water periodically in order to prevent dehydration.
e. Eat Meals. Eating nutritious meals (hot meals, if possible) helps soldiers to
maintain proper body (core) temperature and good general health. Eating more,
smaller meals is beneficial in maintaining proper body temperature.