What causes Chilblains?
Chilblains most often happen in the feet and hands in cold weather. The blood vessels or capillaries in these extremities shrink and so the blood moves around at a slower speed. If you warm up your feet and hands too quickly, the blood vessels dilate rapidly, blood rushes in and can burst these capillaries. This causes inflammation, bruising and itching.
Even though chilblains are uncomfortable, they generally go away on their own within one to three weeks. In most cases there is no permanent damage, but in some recurring cases they can cause an ulcer.
Symptoms of Chilblains
Chilblains can develop on the feet, hands, nose and earlobes, but most commonly in the toes. If you have chilblains, you may be experiencing some of the following symptoms:
- Red, blue or white scaly patches on your feet or hands
- Burning sensation on the skin
- Blisters or skin ulcers
- Dry cracked skin
- Swelling and itching
Related article: Why do my feet ache in winter? 4 common foot problems
Self-help at home – what you can do to relieve Chilblains
There are some simple things you can do to alleviate the discomfort and also prevent chilblains from recurring.
To treat chilblains:
- Don’t scratch your skin as this will further inflame it
- Wear warm socks – preferably woollen
- Gently stretch your feet to improve circulation
- Rub lanolin or a similar ointment to soothe the irritation and to maintain body heat (also speak to your local chemist about other relief balms).
To prevent recurring chilblains:
- Avoid exposure to the cold
- Keep your feet and hands warm, wear water-resistant and warm fibres for protection
- Keep your whole body warm during cold weather to minimise temperature fluctuations
- Do not place your feet or hands near a fire or heater to warm up quickly, instead rub them gently to stimulate circulation
- Dry your feet properly after a shower or bath
- Wear woollen or thick cotton socks to keep your feet warm and to allow them to breathe
See a podiatrist for recurring chilblains at our family friendly podiatry clinics
We look after feet for all members of the family, from young children to the elderly. Winter can cause pain and discomfort in the feet for a variety of reasons. If you’re not coping with the cold and are experiencing recurring chilblains, please book an appointment with one of our experienced podiatrists who will provide guidance and advice on how to treat and prevent this condition.