The key to the management of any cold injury is protecting yourself from further cold exposure.
It is almost impossible to put a figure to a temperature below which you should not be exposed as so many different factors can be relevant. The best guide to which conditions you can safely tolerate is your own hands and feet. When you start to feel your hands or feet getting cold with your fingers and toes starting to go numb you must take yourself indoors and ensure you re-warm properly in order to avoid further injury.
Q: It is now several years since I sustained my injuries.
Will I ever get better?
It is impossible to say. Some patients make a full recovery albeit over a period of months or years, some stay the same for the rest of their lives, whilst a few, particularly those who get repeated cold injury, gradually deteriorate. It is impossible to predict what will happen to you and all you can do is care for your hands or feet as well as possible.
Q: How should I care for my feet?
You may find that you benefit from using a foot spa at the end of the day. You should fill the foot spa with water at 40 centigrade and put your feet or hands in the spa for 20 to 30 minutes. If you drink alcohol you may like to have a small glass of your favourite tipple. After 20 to 30 minutes you should take your feet or hands out and dry them before applying powder and putting on your bed socks. Benefits may take some months before they can be seen but by following this routine each night it is possible that your condition will improve to a point where your feet will remain warm throughout the night.
Q: My GP has never heard of cold injuries. Where can I go for help?
Following a recent change in policy, the Institute of Naval Medicine Cold Injury Clinic is no longer able to assess civilians.
Your GP can still contact Dr Oakley at the Institute of Naval Medicine for advice on 02392 768 064.
In the alternative, your GP could refer you to a specialist vascular surgeon with experience of NFCI, such as Dr Imray who is contactable on 02476 417 655.