chilblains
Chilblains rarely require treatment because they are not a serious condition and often heal on their own.

Because there is no cure for chilblains, it is best to avoid getting them in the first place.

The good news is that chilblains rarely require treatment because they are not serious. They typically heal on their own unless you have scratched them to the point of infection. 

The most important thing you can do is refrain from scratching or rubbing the affected area. Although it may be tempting, scratching these swollen areas or rubbing against something could cause the sensitive skin to break. If the skin breaks and you continue to scratch with your nails or walk barefoot, you greatly increase your risk of infecting your already-ailing toes.

The goal of treatment is to get warm blood flowing to the fingers and toes in the following ways:

  • It is critical to keep the entire body warm, so wearing gloves and socks can help keep your fingers and toes warm.
  • It is critical to keep the rest of the body warm outside with jackets, scarves, and hats and wear adequate clothing inside.
  • Chilblains can reoccur with even minor exposure to cold, so it is critical to be consistent.
  • Cigarette smoking exacerbates chilblains.

If your chilblains do not go away on their own, continue to worsen, or have developed into open wounds or pustules, you should see a qualified medical podiatrist or general practitioner.

In the most severe cases, medication can be used to improve blood supply to the fingers and toes, such as the following:

  • Take pain relievers such as Tylenol (acetaminophen) and Advil (ibuprofen).
  • Itching and swelling are treated with topical steroids.
  • Topical cortisone cream may be beneficial for relieving pain and reducing redness.
  • To improve circulation, your doctor may prescribe heparin ointment.
  • If the doctor suspects an infection, they may prescribe antibiotics.
  • Chilblains can be treated with aloe vera gel, which has both healing and anti-inflammatory properties, so it can help with pain and inflammation.
  • Medications that are commonly used to treat high blood pressure can sometimes help with the symptoms of chilblains, so a doctor may prescribe nifedipine—a tablet that works by relaxing the blood vessels and improving circulation.
  • Although ultraviolet light has been proposed as a method of preventing outbreaks, studies have reported mixed results.

Other remedies for Chilblains

Foods that help improve blood flow include the following spices:

Essential fatty acids are necessary for circulatory health and blood vessel integrity. Add sesame seeds, oats, and almonds to your diet.

When it comes to the health of your circulatory system, you should avoid some of the following foods:

  • Dietary fiber-deficient foods (fatty fried foods, puddings, cakes and biscuits, and sweets)

Supplements:

  • They can complement your healthy, well-balanced whole-food diet. The B vitamin niacin (vitamin B3) is used when circulation to the minor capillaries isn't as good as it should be.
  • You should consume calcium, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins A and K, and fiber-rich foods or supplements.

Footwear:

  • Cotton, bamboo, or woolen socks and leather or canvas shoes are the best choices. It's essential to spend as little time as possible barefoot.
  • Make sure your rooms are equipped with heaters and your floors have rugs for warmth.

Exercise:

  • Exercise aids in the improvement of blood circulation and elevation of body temperature. You can help normalize blood flow by doing some simple exercises. If you're up for it, try some cardiovascular exercises because they have the most beneficial effects.
    • Stand with your legs apart and arms horizontally pointed.
    • Jump and bring your arms to your sides and legs together.
    • Now, jump and go back to the original position.
    • Repeat as many times as you wish.

Best home remedy:

  • Warm water with salt is one of the best home remedies for completely healing chilblains.
  • It's an excellent choice to treat chilblain symptoms such as redness and puffiness.
  • Heat a bowl of water and add salt to it. Soak your skin's affected areas in this water. Make sure the water is not too hot.
  • People with diabetes are better off avoiding this remedy because they may have neuropathy and misjudge the water temperature, resulting in burns.
  • Reduce redness by doing this for the next few minutes. Repeat this process several times a day to completely heal chilblains.

Unfortunately, there aren't many medications that can eliminate chilblains in people who have them regularly. The majority of medications simply alleviate the symptoms.

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What are chilblains?

A chilblain is painful, red swelling that appears on the tips of the toes and fingers. This occurs when the blood vessels suddenly expand.

Chilblains are skin inflammations that are frequently accompanied by itching or burning. They are caused by a reaction to cold and are most commonly found on the small toes, fingers, face, or nose. Moreover, they can occur in pressure-sensitive areas such as a bunion.

9 common symptoms of chilblains include:

  1. Redness or pallor of the affected areas
  2. Numbness
  3. Hot, tender, itchy skin
  4. Pain when moving the fingers or toes
  5. Reduced flexibility or stiffness in the fingers and toes
  6. Burning sensation on the skin
  7. Possible blisters in affected areas
  8. Ulcerated or bleeding lesions
  9. Areas may appear blue as they get congested and swollen

When they dry out, they may leave cracks in the skin, leaving the body open to infection.

A rapid change from vasoconstriction (narrow vessels) to vasodilation causes chilblains; this can cause damage to the vessels and result in blood leaking to the surrounding tissues.

15 common causes of and risk factors for chilblains include:

  1. Moving from extreme cold to extreme hot too rapidly
  2. Female gender (women are more likely to get chilblains than men)
  3. Smoking (this can lead to constriction of the arteries and peripheral arterial disease)
  4. Older people (because they are more likely to have reduced circulation)
  5. Poor nutrition
  6. Anemia
  7. Sensitivity to cold
  8. Hormonal changes
  9. Poor blood circulation
  10. Lower body weight
  11. People with diabetes
  12. Connective tissue diseases and bone marrow disorders
  13. Damp living conditions or cold environments
  14. Raynaud’s disease (smaller arteries that supply blood to your skin become narrow, limiting blood flow to affected areas)
  15. Autoimmune conditions such as Lupus

Are chilblains a sign of COVID-19?

COVID toe is a widely reported phenomenon in people who have tested positive for COVID-19. In this condition, swelling and redness that resemble chilblain occur in the toes due to the virus that attacks the lining of the blood vessels in these digits.

COVID toes can appear before, after, or during active coronavirus infection, and it is unclear whether people who have the condition will produce antibodies to the virus.

This strange coronavirus symptom is frequently present in very mild forms of the illness, so you must seek medical attention if you suspect that your chilblains are caused by COVID-19.

What is the outlook of chilblains?

The most important aspect of management of cold-induced perniosis (chilblains) with no underlying pathology is prophylaxis, which will be accomplished by wearing warm clothing and living in a properly insulated housing.

  • When chilblains appear, they typically run a self-limiting course over a few weeks. People must relax in a warm environment and, if necessary, use topical antipruritic medications. 
  • Vasodilators are well-known to be an effective treatment and preventive measure for people with perniosis.
  • Chilblains can be painful and uncomfortable, but they rarely cause long-term health issues. 

Make an appointment with your doctor if you get them frequently, they don't seem to heal, you suspect they're infected or you get them during warm seasons. You may have an underlying condition (such as a peripheral arterial disease or uncontrolled diabetes mellitus) that necessitates treatment.

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Medically Reviewed on 12/7/2021
References
Image Source: Getty Images

Chilblains: https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/chilblains

https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/chilblains

https://dermnetnz.org/topics/chilblains

Pernio: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK549842/

https://rarediseases.org/rare-diseases/perniosis/