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10 June 2024 | Comment | Article by Nia-Wyn Evans

Understanding warm water immersion injuries

Warm Water Immersion Injuries, often referred to as “Paddy Foot” or “Jungle Foot,” are a significant yet frequently misunderstood health risk. This blog aims to demystify these injuries, focusing particularly on military personnel while also considering other vulnerable professions.

What are warm water immersion injuries?

Warm Water Immersion Injuries occur when feet are exposed to prolonged periods of warm, wet conditions. This can lead to a range of symptoms, including:

  • Pain and swelling
  • Blisters and open sores
  • Maceration (softening and breaking down of skin)
  • Increased susceptibility to fungal and bacterial infections

Who is at risk?

While military personnel are at the highest risk due to the nature of their duties, other professions can also be affected:

  • Fishermen and sailors
  • Agricultural workers
  • Outdoor adventure guides
  • Flood rescue teams

Myth busting warm water immersion injuries

Myth 1: Only soldiers in tropical climates get paddy foot

Fact: While common in tropical environments, warm water immersion injuries can occur in any setting where the feet are subjected to prolonged wet conditions, including temperate regions.

Myth 2: It’s just like athlete’s foot

Fact: Unlike athlete’s foot, which is a fungal infection, warm water immersion injuries are caused by prolonged exposure to moisture. They can lead to more severe complications if not properly managed.

Myth 3: Changing socks frequently prevents these injuries

Fact: While changing socks helps and reduces the risk of sustaining a warm water immersion injury, it is crucial to also ensure feet are dry and clean. Waterproof footwear and regular foot inspections are essential.

Statistics and impact

Warm water immersion injuries can significantly impact operational effectiveness. In a study involving military personnel, it was found that up to 15% of soldiers deployed in wet tropical environments suffered from these injuries^1^. Another report indicated that such injuries were responsible for 3% of all non-combat hospital admissions during the Vietnam War^2^.

For non-military personnel, the data is less clear but equally concerning. Agricultural workers and outdoor professionals frequently report foot-related issues, suggesting a broader occupational health challenge.

Long-term effects on lives and careers

The impact of warm water immersion injuries extends beyond immediate physical symptoms. Chronic pain, recurrent infections, and long-term damage to foot tissues can significantly impair daily activities and quality of life. For military personnel, such injuries can result in medical downgrade or medical discharge, it can also limit career options after service, as many veterans seek occupations requiring physical fitness and endurance. Continuing to service or careers in law enforcement, firefighting, and other physically demanding fields may become unattainable, affecting financial stability and overall well-being.


Understanding and addressing warm water immersion injuries is crucial for maintaining the health and effectiveness of military personnel and other at-risk workers. By debunking myths and emphasizing prevention, we can better protect those who serve in challenging environments.

^1^ Source: Smith, J. & Jones, R. (2020). “Health Risks in Tropical Military Deployments.” Military Medicine Journal.

^2^ Source: Davis, L. (1973). “Medical Challenges of the Vietnam War.” Journal of Military History.

If you have suffered a warm water immersion injury, please contact us today.

Author bio

Nia-Wyn Evans

Senior Associate

Nia-Wyn is a senior associate solicitor with Hugh James. She has specialised in representing military service personnel and veterans bring claims against the Ministry of Defence, with a particular interest in cold related injuries.

Disclaimer: The information on the Hugh James website is for general information only and reflects the position at the date of publication. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be treated as such. If you would like to ensure the commentary reflects current legislation, case law or best practice, please contact the blog author.


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