… and although we don’t come across chilblains quite so often these days, they can and do cause misery to those that are afflicted.
Chilblains form when our extremities are exposed to extremes of temperature – from the cold, damp weather outside and then the sudden increase in temperature as we come into a centrally heated home. The capillaries in fingers, toes, ears and even nose will constrict in cold conditions to help maintain the body’s core temperature, but then if exposed to a sudden increase in temperature, they will rapidly dilate. If the capillaries can’t cope with the rapid increase in blood flow, some of the blood will leak into the surrounding tissues, causing dark red or even bluish swellings, which burn and itch.
The best way to combat chilblains is to keep the feet (or other affected part) as warm and dry as possible. When coming in from the cold, avoid the temptation of warming chilly feet in front of the fire, but let them warm up gradually. Make sure there is nothing to constrict the circulation by avoiding tight shoes or socks that leave an indent around the calf, soft-tops are best.
Try gently massaging your feet to warm them up. There are some great creams on the market that contain circulation stimulating ingredients. We stock Gehwol Warming Balm which contains paprika and ginger extracts to get your feet tingling.
Smokers are more prone to developing chilblains as nicotine constricts the blood vessels, so that’s another reason to give up!
Chilblains will normally go away on their own after a few weeks, but if the skin breaks over the swellings, then special care must be taken to avoid infection. Spray with antiseptic, apply a clean dressing and seek medical help if you are diabetic or begin to feel unwell, as you may require antibiotics to fight the infection.
For more information about chilblains, check out the NHS choices page.