Understanding and Treating Chilblains

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Chilblains, also known as pernio, are a common condition that affects the skin. They typically occur on the toes, fingers, ears, and nose, and are caused by the body’s abnormal response to cold temperatures. While chilblains are not a serious medical condition, they can be uncomfortable and cause itching, redness, swelling, and sometimes even blisters. In this article, we will explore the causes, symptoms, and treatment options for chilblains.

Causes of Chilblains:

Chilblains occur when the small blood vessels in the skin become damaged due to cold temperatures. When the body is exposed to cold, these blood vessels constrict to conserve heat. However, in some individuals, the blood vessels may overreact and constrict too much, leading to poor circulation and the development of chilblains. Other factors that can increase the risk of chilblains include poor circulation, tight shoes or clothing, and a family history of the condition.

Symptoms of Chilblains:

The symptoms of chilblains can vary from person to person, but they typically include redness, swelling, itching, and a burning sensation. In more severe cases, blisters may develop, which can be painful and prone to infection. Chilblains are usually not accompanied by a fever or other systemic symptoms. It’s important to note that chilblains can sometimes be mistaken for frostbite, so it’s essential to seek medical attention if you’re unsure about your symptoms.

Treatment Options for Chilblains:

If you’re experiencing chilblains, there are several steps you can take to alleviate the symptoms and promote healing. Here are some effective treatment options:

1. Keep the affected area warm: It’s crucial to avoid exposure to cold temperatures and keep the affected area warm. Wear warm socks, gloves, and protective footwear to prevent further damage.

2. Elevate the affected area: Elevating the affected area can help reduce swelling and improve circulation. Try to keep the affected area elevated whenever possible.

3. Avoid scratching: Although chilblains can be itchy, scratching can further irritate the skin and increase the risk of infection. Use over-the-counter anti-itch creams or lotions to relieve the itchiness.

4. Apply warm compresses: Applying warm compresses to the affected area can help improve blood circulation and provide temporary relief from pain and discomfort.

5. Use topical medications: Your healthcare provider may prescribe topical medications, such as corticosteroid creams or ointments, to reduce inflammation and promote healing.

6. Practice good foot hygiene: Keep your feet clean and dry to prevent infection. Avoid using harsh soaps or hot water, as these can further aggravate the skin.

Preventing Chilblains:

While chilblains can be challenging to prevent entirely, there are several steps you can take to minimize your risk:

1. Dress appropriately for the weather: Wear warm clothing, including hats, gloves, and socks, to protect your extremities from the cold.

2. Avoid sudden temperature changes: Try to limit exposure to extreme temperature changes, such as going from a warm room to a cold outdoor environment.

3. Keep your body warm: Maintain a comfortable indoor temperature and use heating devices, such as blankets or space heaters, to keep your body warm during colder months.

4. Maintain good circulation: Regular exercise, such as walking or swimming, can help improve blood circulation and reduce the risk of chilblains.

5. Avoid tight footwear: Wearing tight shoes or boots can restrict blood flow to the extremities, increasing the risk of chilblains. Opt for well-fitting, comfortable footwear.


Chilblains are a common condition that can be uncomfortable but are generally not serious. By understanding the causes, symptoms, and treatment options for chilblains, you can take steps to alleviate the discomfort and promote healing. Remember to dress appropriately for the weather, keep your body warm, and practice good foot hygiene to minimize your risk of developing chilblains. If you’re unsure about your symptoms or if they worsen, it’s always best to consult with a healthcare professional for proper diagnosis and treatment.


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