Many people suffer from cold feet in the winter but not all of then develop chilblains as a result. Whether they do or not depends, to a large extent, on the efficiency of their circulation.
Chilblains are small, itchy, red swellings on the skin, which can become increasingly painful, can swell, burst and then dry out, leaving cracks which can expose the foot to the risk of infection. They can appear anywhere on the skin, particularly on the toes, fingers, nose and ear lobes.
They are caused by the skin’s abnormal reaction to cold and damp or draughty conditions. If the skin, on the extremities, is chilled and is then followed by too rapid a warming next to a fire, a hot water bottle, etc, then chilblains may result.
Who is at risk?
Young adults, mainly female, who might show signs of being anxious or withdrawn. Women, who work out doors in cold places such as markets and shop assistants, when the door is constantly being opened, are all susceptible to chilblains. Elderly people, whose circulation is less efficient than it used to be, people who don’t take enough exercise and those suffering from anaemia are all prone to chilblains.
What can you do to help?
To help prevent chilblains, keep your legs and feet warm, especially if your circulation is poor and your mobility is limited. The whole leg, not just your feet, needs to be kept warm, so trousers, long boots, tights and leg warmers or long socks will help. Try not to expose yourself to extremes of cold perhaps by delaying going out until later in the day. Try not to sit or stand in a cold, draughty environment.
Start the day with warm feet, by having a warm bath to get your circulation going.
Have a hot meal during the day to help to warm your whole body, not just your feet.
Keep exposure to the cold to a minimum. If unavoidable, make sure your feet are warmed slowly.
Keep feet away from hot water bottles and wear bed socks at night.
The thicker the soles on your shoes, the better the insulation.
Never scratch a chilblain, it can easily lead to infection.
If you are worried about chilblains, visit you Podiatrist who will be able to give you preventative advice and also treat and protect any chilblains already present.