Alex Adam Podiatry > Blog > Chilblains


As a podiatrist we do see from time to time a flare up with certain foot related conditions but after seeing many cases of chilblains coming through the clinic which can affect women children and the elderly I wanted to add to a recent short post to our AMA Podiatry face book page.

“With Winter still here we are seeing an alarming increase in Chilblains”.

These are lesions associated with vaso-spasm of the capillary beds and result in cell death. Once they are present little can be done other than the use of antiseptics and mild rubefacients such as tiger balms, deep heat etc. There are also many natural remedies for this condition to help.


It is important to keep yourself warm especially around the chest and kidney areas as the body’s core temperature is linked with the occurrence of chilblains.
If you are susceptible to these preventative treatments should be started in April of each year to prevent or reduce the occurrence in the winter months.

What are chilblains?

Exposure to the cold and damp may damage tiny blood vessels (capillaries) in the skin, resulting in redness, blisters, itching, and inflammation. The itching, swelling, and blistering red patches may occur on the toes, fingers, ears, and nose. People at risk of getting chilblains are teens, elderly, and patients with medical conditions such as anaemia. Also, patients with poor circulation, or other related blood vessel problems are more prone to develop chilblains.

Treatments for chilblains, which consist mainly of topical remedies and medications, are usually effective and the patient makes a full recovery within a couple of weeks. If left untreated though, there is a risk of complications, such as skin ulcers, cracked or broken skin, and infections

What causes chilblains

Chilblains generally appear from a combination of poor circulation and cold weather. Patients who suffer from chilblains have a particular control cell that shuts off circulation to an area. These cells are activated by extreme changes of temperature (vaso spasm). When the skin is cold and then suddenly warmed it shut downs the control cells preventing blood flow to the cold tissues and this causes the chilblain.

Chilblains signs and symptoms include:

  • burning and itching sensation, usually in the extremities, such as the feet, hands, nose, or ears
  • skin of the affected area may change colour from red to dark blue and become inflamed (swollen)
  • sores and blisters may appear (rare)


After consultation with your podiatrist, patients generally have good results from applying a mixture of rubefacient (tiger balsam) and betadine solution and makes a full recovery within a couple of weeks.

In more severe cases of ulcerating or recurring chilblains your doctor may prescribe a preventive drug. If there is a pre-existing condition, such as diabetes we would recommend a consult with your doctor to check circulation in the affected area without delay.

Home care

The following can help with symptoms:

  • rewarm skin gently – do not massage, rub, or apply direct heat
  • keep skin dry and warm
  • apply lotion to reduce itching
  • clean skin with an antiseptic to reduce the risk of infection
  • do not scratch

Chilblain Prevention

Keep the body warm when outside in cold temperatures, warm footwear (sock and shoes), gloves hat and scarf.

Avoid warming up extremities rapidly with radiant heat or hot water bottles. Gradually warming the entire body is better.

Wear correct fitting shoes, exercise regularly to aide In circulation, stop smoking (as it narrows blood vessels)


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