Chilblains- What are they and how to prevent them?

5 February 2020

Chilblains- What are they and how to prevent them?

person_outlineSue Mullen
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bookmark_border Chilblains

What are they?

Chilblains are small, itchy, red areas of skin.  They can come as a result of an abnormal reaction to the cold. They usually affect the hands and feet.

The good news is that although they are uncomfortable, they generally clear up within 7-10 days.

What causes Chilblains?

During cold weather, the tiny blood vessels in the hands and feet constrict.  This slows the flow of blood to these areas. When the temperature rises again, the vessels may not dilate quickly enough.  This can cause damage to the tissues due to leakage of fluids.  

Who is at risk?

Chilblains are seen most commonly in older people and children.  Women are more at risk than men.  Other risk factors include those with poor circulation/ peripheral vascular disease, smokers, underweight people and diabetics.

How to prevent them?

Prevention is key!

Keep hands and feet warm in chilly weather.  Use gloves and warm socks (merino wool is great!!) 

Layer up!! Wear long-johns, tights or leggings under trousers

Don’t wear socks that are too tight as this will restrict the circulation.

Thick rubber soled footwear will help insulate the foot from the cold ground. 

When you get into the warm again, immediately remove damp shoes and socks. Replace them with nice thick warm socks and slippers.

DO NOT reheat skin too quickly.  Don’t put cold feet directly on the radiator or plunge them into hot water.

If you are prone to chilblains, massage a little chilblain cream into the area.  Balmosa cream stimulates the circulation to return.

What to do if you have chilblains already?

They do usually go away on their own in 7-10 days.   It’s important not to scratch them.  This could cause a wound and the risk of infection. Calamine lotion or witch hazel can ease the irritation.

Sue Mullen is our expert in foot health. If you have concerns about your feet she can be contacted on 0208-394-0393, or book online

Picture of Chilblains can be viewed at https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/chilblains/

Sue Mullen

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