Chilblains effect mostly the toes but can also affect the fingers, ears, and nose. They appear on the skin as small, itchy, swellings that can occur in cold temperatures. They can be very uncomfortable but rarely cause any permanent damage to your skin and will normally heal within a couple of weeks - if you avoid cold temperatures
You normally develop chilblains in the winter during low temperatures and they are very common in the UK due to the damp, cold weather. Low temperatures cause a restriction of a small branch of the artery leading to the capillaries which supply blood to the skin. When the skin is warmed quickly it can lead to blistering, redness, and itchy lesions
If you appear to have poor circulation or you work in an environment where you are regularly exposed to cold and damp conditions then you are more likely to develop chilblains. They do not usually require any treatment as they usually disappear after a week or two. If they keep coming back or become severe, it puts you at risk of developing further problems. There is a small chance that an infection can occur from the blistered or scratched skin. In the worst cases, ulcers may develop on the skin. To avoid any of this happening, it is advisable that you do not directly overheat the area and try to refrain from scratching the skin.
To reduce the risk of developing chilblains, you should limit your exposure to cold environments. However, if your feet do get cold, it is very important to warm them back up gradually. Heating them too quickly is one of the main causes of chilblains. If you moisturise your feet regularly, warm your shoes on the radiator before putting them on and keep your feet dry you may prevent chilblains. Keeping your feet active in cold weather is also beneficial.
If your feet are itchy, use a soothing lotion such as witch hazel or calamine lotion as the skin on your feet can split. If this happens it is important that you apply a dressing to keep the site from becoming infected. A combination of a healthy diet and regular exercise is also important.
If you think you may have developed an infection, seek treatment immediately. A podiatrist will be able to apply dressings and prescribe the right medication.