Chilblains: Cold Weather Woes For Your Feet and Toes!

Red, itchy and swollen toes are common symptoms of chilblains

It’s that time of year again when the low temperatures are making our feet feel frozen, numb and cold. All you want to do is find warmth in a nice hot shower, electric blanket, hot water bottle or heater. You may not know it yet, but sometimes exposing your feet to extreme changes in temperatures can cause chilblains. Chilblains present as itchy and painful red lumps on your toes that can drive you up the wall!

CHILBLAINS: What are chilblains?

Chilblains (also called erythema pernio) are small itchy, red (and sometimes blue to purple) swellings on the skin, which can be painful. Chilblains are a reaction to severe cold weather when our capillaries shrink to keep the warmth of our blood close to our bodies and not close to the skin where heat is lost. When we rewarm the feet too quickly, this can lead to leakage of fluid and blood into the toes leading to chilblains. The fluid and blood in the tissue can cause redness and cause irritation and itching and sometimes they can break down to become a small ulcer prone to infection.

CHILBLAINS: Who is at risk of getting chilblains?

Particular population groups prone to getting chilblains are:

  • People who smoke (this can lead to constriction of arteries as well as peripheral arterial disease)
  • People with connective tissue disorders (for example lupus)
  • People who suffer from Raynauds syndrome
  • People with a family history of chilblains
  • People with poor circulation such as those are living with Diabetes
  • Those who enjoy the outdoors but neglect to keep their feet warm and dry

CHILBLAINS: What are the symptoms of chilblains?


Chilblains usually cause discomfort, pain and can be extremely itchy. They usually appear as red / purple lumps and in some cases they can blister and scab over. They usually last for a week or longer and subside with appropriate treatment or when the warmer weather arrives. Chilblains occur mainly on the extremities (toes, fingers, nose, ears) and over bony areas (knuckles).

 

 

CHILBLAINS: How do I avoid getting chilblains?

These are the steps you need to take to prevent chilblains happening to you:

  • Keep your feet warm at all times
  • Try not to go from cold to hot quickly
  •  If your feet are cold it is important to warm them up slowly
  • Avoid jumping in a hot shower or putting your feet in front of the heater straight after coming in from the cold. Make sure the water temperature isn’t too hot to start with but slowly increase the temperature.
  • Instead, slip on a pair of slippers or some thick woollen socks and slowly warm them up or using heat bag to warm them up slowly.
  • Avoid walking around barefoot. Instead, wear socks and slippers/shoes to keep your feet warm.

CHILBLAINS: How do I treat chilblains at home?

Red and purple lumps

If you have chilblains, these are some home treatments you can try:

  • Resist the urge to scratch, as this will further damage the skin.
  • Use calamine lotion or witch hazel to soothe the itching
  • Rub Deep Heat or similar onto the feet to promote heat and circulation
  • Wear woollen or cotton socks.
  • Keep your whole body warm.

It’s important that you make sure what you have is a chilblain before commencing any home remedies. If you’re not sure then seek help from a podiatrist.  At our clinic we invest in the latest innovative technology and had great success with Low Level Laser Therapy to treat chilblains.  So if home remedies aren’t helping then let us know!  We’re here to help.

Our Podiatrists can distinguish chilblains from many other skin conditions after taking a thorough history and inspecting the lesions on your feet.  You will then be given a management plan that will not only treat the symptoms but also identify the root cause of why your chilblains have developed in the first place. We are big on preventative care so you will be able to learn ways you can avoid getting chilblains in the future.  You can book online or call our friendly help team on (03) 9711 7562 to book an appointment.

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54 Comments. Leave new

  • Hi my 9 year old son’s toes are red and sometimes turn blue but not itchy, and no blisters or pain seen three doctors and all said its chilblains but didn’t recommend a cream and its now 5 days and still has it. How long can it last im a bit worried.

    Reply
  • My husband developed a very bad chilblains on his big toe after he broke his leg 10yrs ago it now breaks out every winter but it really goes funny, breaks open, leaks fluid and looks like the tip of the tie is collapsing the doctor prescribed adalat last year but due to covud we couldn’t get it he also
    Prescribed this cream but it did nothing as the doctors are only doing phone consultations at the moment what can we get from the chemist that may help it isn’t itchy or sore

    Reply
    • Hi Carolyn, thanks for the message and sorry to hear your husband is suffering with chilblains. I know this sounds mighty obvious but your husband should request a Telehealth video call so his GP can assess the wound. Perhaps it’s infected? Perhaps it’s not? I’m unable to give you advice without assessing him first. Good luck!

      Reply
  • Hi Kim, my 8yr old son just started developing chiliblains. His dad used to have badly as a kid too. I make my son wear loose-socks and apply creams for itchiness. At night he cries because his toes are so itchy and sore. I know he mustn’t scratch them but are antibiotics or steroids a way to go to offer him some relief. What can i give him for the pain too? I feel so helpless every night when he cries. thanks in advance for you reply.

    Reply
    • Hey Tebs, thank you for your message. Sounds like you’re frustrated and have tried everything to help your son. We’ve started using laser treatment for chilblains at the clinic and have had really quick, immediate results. If you can get your son into a couple of sessions of that I think it’ll definitely help ease his symptoms quick smart.

      Reply
  • Hi Ngan, the GP prescribed steroids for my 11 year old daughters chilblains. It becomes very painful at night despite using the steroid cream morning and night for 2 days. Online, I can’t see others recommending steroid cream. Would you recommend we use deep heat and calamine to relieve symptoms instead? She’s too scared to have a shower 🙁 Thanks. Liz

    Reply
    • I would recommend using deep heat or tiger balm if you haven’t already done so. Try to keep her feet warm with merino wool socks or thermal socks. All the best and if you can get to a clinic that uses low level laser therapy, then book in to get her some treatment. We use it at our clinic with great outcomes.

      Reply
  • I am exactly the same as Laura! I have never experienced chilblains before in my life. Ever since the pandemic started I have had what doctors think say are chilblains 2 winters in a row. I’ve had extensive testing, seen multiple specialists and several different GPs and no one can give me an answer. My husband gets it at the exact same time as me – which surely would mean it’s infectious? The only thing that works is strong antibiotics, but it comes back about a week after I finish a course. It only effects 4 toes on the same foot for both years now. Last year when It cleared finally after 3 months, my entire foot peeled and I was left with 4 discoloured toes. Im at my wits end and I’m in desperate need of help!!

    Reply
  • Hi, I have been presenting this chilblains like 5-6 times since the pandemic starts. I have visit dermatologist, chiropodist an general doctors, and it is clear that they don’t know what I have, so they take the easy way and every time they give me antibiotic. The antibiotic works but a couple of weeks after it appears again. I don’t think its safe to take that much of antibiotic.

    What should I do? Can I do exercise while I have chilblanes? i’ll really appreciate your help!

    Reply
    • Hi Laura, thank you for sharing your story here. Are you local enough to come into our clinic for treatment? We can use laser therapy to help reduce the pain and inflammation that you’re experiencing. Please let me know.

      Reply
      • My 2.5 year old daughter has just recently -7 days now started to have these red blister looking rash on palm of her hand. Our dr said it was chilblains and subscribed topical corticosteroid cream 0.1% dosage. I have been applying twice daily and no improvements. Her feet have also started to become itchy. She is worst at night, waking up every half hour to every hour and scratches so much. I can see she is in pain as she is crying and I just don’t know how else to help her? I took her back to see Dr today and dr advised wear gloves on hands, except my daughter is soo young and takes them off after a few minutes. I always have her dressed warm as here in Australia it is winter still. We have a fireplace in our house so inside is always warm and for the past 6 weeks we have been in lockdown due to the pandemic so not even sure how she possibly developed this? Any support would be greatest appreciated as I’ve searched online and cannot find anything relating to chilblains in children soo young and under the age of 5!!!

        Reply
        • Hi Kaliopi, it’s terribly frustrating when children as young as your daughter are not getting relief. On top of that, lockdowns present so many other challenges. To be honest we don’t often see children that age with chilblains either especially on hands and feet. Getting medical care is not prohibited so I would seek another opinion if the advice from her GP isn’t helping. Also consider a Covid test to rule out Covid toes. Good luck and best wishes.

          Reply
    • Nadia Clarke
      July 23, 2021 9:46 am

      Laura! I’ve finally found someone experiencing the same problem as me! Never had experienced “chilblains” since the pandemic started.

      Reply
  • I am 47 years and have been suffering from chilblains since the age of 10 only on my fingers. The only time I dund t get it was when I was pregnant. They are so ghastly in appearance andbitch when warm and hurt when cold. Tried many products but nothing worked.
    Of
    lains

    Reply
    • The only thing that works is exercise. You need to be exercising more in a way that makes your body feel good, for some people that is gentle exercise like walking and for others that is more intense exercise like biking up a hill or boxing. If you do regular exercise when the weather is cold your chill blains will go completely as your circulation improves.

      Reply
      • Thanks for this! We agree, exercise is a great way to improve circulation to the toes and feet. Some people still suffer with chilblains despite doing regular exercise so it’s not a full proof treatment plan I’m afraid

        Reply
  • I started experiencing chilblains back in January of this year on all of my toes. I went and got it checked and was then asked to wear wool socks to keep my feet warm. I have done that ever since and it has gotten a lot better, but I still see a red bump on my left pinky toe and I feel a burning sensation, although not itchy. I notice that whenever I run and put pressure on my feet I get a sharp shooting pain from my pinky toe and I am wondering if that is the result of chilblains or something else?

    Reply
    • Hi Dominic, have you tried to check if the shoes you’re wearing is wide enough? Perhaps the pinky may not have the space to move when you’re running. If you’re not sure, I suggest you see a Podiatrist to have your footwear assessed first to rule that out. Hope that helps.

      Reply
  • I am 21 years old, and I think I have chilblains, and it’s the first time I am having this problem since I moved to Wyoming from Texas. Right now, it’s itching so bad that’s it’s taking all my willpower to ignore it. When I am walking around, it doesn’t itch so bad, but when I go to sleep, it starts to itch badly. What method can I use to stop the itching because it’s driving me crazy?

    Reply
    • Hi Sahara, you can try one of these methods to help reduce the itch:
      1) Use calamine lotion or witch hazel to soothe the itching.
      2) Lanolin or Deep Heat, rubbed into the feet, will help retain body heat.
      3) Wear woollen or cotton socks
      4) Keep your whole body warm.
      5) Last but not least resist the urge to scratch, as this will further damage the skin.

      Hope that helps.

      Reply
  • Hi I’ve been to the drs twice now they have said an allergy however I have had red blisters burning and itchy toes and heals which start itching more at nighttime and burning and picking, it started after I went for a walk in Wellington boots is it chill blains?

    Reply
    • Hey Sam, thanks for reaching out. Quite difficult as you can imagine for us to diagnose what you have without ever seeing your foot. It must be frustrating for you not to see improvement after having seen your doctor twice so far. I would suggest seeing a Podiatrist for another opinion since we deal with feet day in day out. Hope that helps.

      Reply
      • Debbie Van Vuuren
        June 16, 2021 7:03 am

        Husband has Dementia and is very sedentary.
        I have tried for months to get him to exercise
        but nothing will shift him he is seated all day.
        Notice toes red and swollen he has very bad circulation… Toes not itchy

        Reply
        • Hi Debbie, sorry to hear your husband is suffering with this. Have you reached out to his doctor for any help? They might be able to offer some help for him in terms of creams and medication. Otherwise, put lots of layers over his feet. Sometimes layering the feet by wearing more than 2-3 pairs of socks can help insulate the foot and keep them warm.

          Reply
    • Hi, I have been effected by this disease in my legs finger
      since 7 to 8 yrs …usually in winter…so I’ll very grateful if you could kindly advice me.

      Thank you,
      Bikash
      Bhutan

      Reply
      • Hi Bikash, thanks for reaching out to us all the way from Bhutan!! Laser therapy has been known to have great results for chilblains. Is there a clinic nearby that can provide that treatment for you?

        Reply
  • It seems I have gt chillbains as my toes are too itchy especially in night it feels like all the hear is coming through them. If I put socks they become very very itchy and hot. During the day my toes are much better but in evening it just starts to get red and highly itchy and hot..infact i feel hotvery warm at that moment.

    Reply
  • Did you ever find relief? I believe I’m in the exact same position! I did go see a podiatrist who gave a guess of Covid toes, but I’m pretty certain I hadn’t contacted the virus, and I’m in a family of 5 where nobody has been sick for over a year!

    I too have been barefoot a lot.. but mine seem to have one area start to heal and then another sprout up.

    Reply
  • Hi, Iv read what you should no do, but for me it’s quite the opposite. Iv had this problem for maybe 15 years and the only thing that I found that helped it actually putting my feet in really hot water with salt and tcp. When I put socks onc it actually makes it worse, so itchy.

    Reply
  • Hi,
    I’m 15 and I’ve had extremely sore and itchy toes and they feel quite swollen for about a week but no matter what I do the pain still stays how do I get it to stop apart from the home remedies?
    Thanks

    Reply
    • Hi Ravi! Thanks for reaching out. I think the best way forward is for you to see a health professional (either GP or Podiatrist) that can assess your toes and give you an accurate diagnosis. From there you’ll be able to get the right treatment to help treat the cause of the problem. Good luck!

      Reply
  • My pinky toes have both been purple/swollen/and scaly kind of for a few months now…is it chilblains or is it something else I should get checked out? I’m only 15 and they don’t hurt or itch.

    Reply
  • Hiii!!!….Can you help me out to get rid of swelling of chilblains coz woollen socks and warming up my feets are not helping out very much…please….

    Reply
  • I am zainab 14 years. in winter on all my foot fingers i feel itching especially in cold weather. can i use deep heat creem

    Reply
  • Pretty sure I have developed chaplains from walking barefoot and poor circulation in my feet. I’ve read about Covid toe but the research doesn’t seem to lean towards this being a result of the actual Coronavirus. I have no other symptoms and don’t think this warrants a Covid test. What do you recommend?

    Reply
    • Hi Megan, thank you for reaching out. Spending more time bare feet during winter would likely cause chilblains. However, not seeing your feet we’re unable to give you a definitive answer. Perhaps play on the side of caution and get it checked out by your doctor?

      Reply
  • [email protected]
    Respected Sir some medicines for it ?

    Reply
  • For the past 2 nights about 5 minutes after I get into bed I get a pulsing sharp pain shoot through one toe on my left foot (the one beside my big toe). It’s Ok when standing and it doesn’t bother me at all during the day. But starts immediately again when I lie down. No redness or sores on my toe, but it’s driving me mad…I’ve recently had pneumonia and been on steroids. I suffered chilblains as a child. Don’t think that’s what it is as I’ve no open sores the way I used to. It’s just a pulsing about every 30 seconds. Can’t sleep with it. Eases after I take 2 ibuprofen and 2 paracetamol. Any ideas to what it could be please?

    Reply
    • Symptoms are interesting. Doesn’t sound like chilblains though. Could be a neurological condition? If it doesn’t subside I would highly recommend you seek medical advice. Sorry can’t help much without assessing your foot properly.

      Reply
  • My toes and fingers itch a lot…especially the area around my cuticles…there was swelling too and blisters…could that be chilblains??

    Reply
    • Hi Hilda, thanks for reading our blog. It’s quite challenging to diagnose skin conditions without inspecting your fingers and toes closely and asking lots of questions. My best tip is to see either a podiatrist or doctor to get an accurate diagnosis so that you can treat the symptoms asap.

      Reply
  • george paolucci
    November 4, 2020 10:43 am

    Hi. Can you get chillblains without getting sores and itching ?

    Reply
  • Can you get a red rash on the tops of your feet and rash on your hands with cillblains?

    Reply

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