With the nights drawing in and temperatures starting to fall it seems a good time to post some information on chilblains and how to prevent them this winter.
Chilblains commonly develop on the extremities of the body after being exposed to the cold. On the feet areas of high pressure are most prone, such as toes, heels and bunions. Chilblains often starts to itch or burn a few hours after developing with the sensation worsening as the skin warms. Affected areas may change to a purple or red colour and swell. In extreme cases the skin may crack with the risk of infection. However, most chilblains usually heal in a few weeks with no medical intervention being required.
What causes chilblains?
When the skin gets cold, blood vessels near the surface constrict. As the skin warms up the vessels then dilate. If this change is too rapid for the vessels to cope with the increased blood flow then fluid from the vessels can leak into the surrounding tissue causing a chilblain.
Some of the factors that make you more susceptible to chilblains
- living in a damp or draughty home
- If you have poor circulation, Lupus or Raynaud’s phenomenon
- If you smoke or consume caffeine as both constrict blood vessels
- If you’re underweight
How do I treat chilblains?
Calamine or witchhazel lotion can be applied to help relieve itching and Friar’s Balsam may help unbroken chilblains recover. People suffering with chronic chilblains are sometimes prescribed Nifedipine to help improve circulation.
How do I prevent chilblains?
- Try to keep your whole body warm and when you do get cold warm up gradually
- Wear thermal long johns, long thick socks both in the day and at night
- Ensure footwear is warm and dry before putting on and that it isn’t too tight as this can reduce circulation
- Gentle exercise to improve your circulation
- Reduce draughts and keep your home warm