Created by KW
What are chilblains?
Chilblains are small, itchy swellings that occur on the skin as a reaction to cold temperatures. It mostly affects your body's extremities, such as fingers, toes, ears and nose. Chilblains usually develop several hours after exposure to the cold and heals within a few weeks if further exposure to the cold is avoided or if the weather gets warmer
What are the symptoms of chilblains?
Burning & itching sensation (Can be more intense if you go into a warm room)
Red or blue swollen patches
Skin may break and blisters may develop in severe cases leading to possibilities of infection
What causes chilblains?
Chilblains are due to an abnormal reaction to the cold. The blood vessels near the surface of your skin narrows when exposed to cold and widens upon exposure to heat. If this happens too quickly, the blood vessels might not be able to handle the sudden increase of blood flow, which leads to the blood leaking into the surrounding tissue. This may be the possible cause of the itching and swelling associated with chilblains
Who are at risk of chilblains?
Regular exposure to cold environments
Family history of chilblains
Tight clothing and/or shoes
Certain medical conditions e.g. Lupus & Raynaud's phenomenon
Chilblains often get better on their own after a week or two and the mainstay of treatment is to apply the prevention strategies listed below. Here are some options that might help to alleviate the symptoms of chilblains:
Soak the affected area(s) in warm water to improve circulation. Do not use hot water as the sudden change in temperature can worsen symptoms
Apply moisturisers containing paraffin or lanolin as these agents will help to retain heat in the affected area(s)
McGloin's Chilblain Ointment (1g contains: camphor 68mg, benzocaine 20mg, balsam-peru 20mg, phenol 9mg in lanolin/paraffin base)
Camphor: It is thought to alleviate pain, itching and to improve circulation
Benzocaine: Numbs the area
Balsam-Peru: It is thought to possess antiseptic properties
Lanolin/Paraffin: Moisturising effect and helps to retain heat
In severe or recurrent cases of chilblains, speak to your pharmacist or doctor as they may be able to recommend alternative products
Avoid/Limit long periods of exposure to cold
Wear clothing that traps body heat more efficiently
Avoid tight clothing and shoes, which can affect circulation
Dry feet thoroughly after showering and ensure socks are breathable
Increase physical activity to improve circulation, especially to the extremities
Avoid nicotine as it can constrict blood vessels, thereby worsening chilblains
Better Health Channel. Chilblains [Internet]. Better Health Channel [updated 2014 May; cited 2017 Aug 12]. Available from: https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/chilblains
Mayo Clinic. Chilblains [Internet]. Mayo Clinic [updated 2015 Dec 10; cited 2017 Aug 12]. Available from: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/chilblains/home/ovc-20165478
NHS Choices. Chilblains [Internet]. NHS Choices [updated 2015 Sep 1; cited 2017 Aug 12]. Available from: http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/chilblains/Pages/Introduction.aspx