What is the treatment for chilblains?
Although chilblains are uncomfortable, they do not usually cause any permanent damage. They will usually heal on their own if further exposure to the cold is avoided.
- Keep the affected areas warm. This means staying out of the cold, or wearing warm gloves, socks, etc, when outdoors.
- No other treatment is normally needed, as they usually go away by themselves.
- A range of creams and lotions can be bought from a pharmacy. However, there is no evidence that any of these are of benefit so they are therefore not recommended.
- Steroid creams are no longer recommended for the treatment (or prevention) of chilblains.
- If you smoke then you should try to stop, as smoking can make chilblains worse.
- Medicines are not usually needed. A medicine called nifedipine can open wide (dilate) the small blood vessels and may help to treat chilblains which are not settling within the normal time. Occasionally it may also be used to prevent chilblains in the winter months in people who have repeated symptoms.
Can you prevent chilblains?
If you are prone to chilblains then trying to prevent them by doing the following is sensible:
- Keep your hands and feet warm when out in cold weather by using warm gloves and socks. Consider special heated gloves and socks if chilblains are a repeated problem.
- Keep your head and ears warm by wearing a hat and scarf.
- You should keep as warm as possible in the cold. Wearing several loose layers is ideal to trap body heat. You should also keep as dry as possible.
- After being out in the cold, do not heat the skin quickly with hot water bottles, etc. Warm yourself up gradually.
- Side-effects to some medicines may narrow (constrict) tiny blood vessels. This may be enough to make you prone to repeated chilblains. For example, beta-blockers can have this effect. Tell your doctor if you become prone to chilblains following starting any medication.
Did you find this information useful?
- Chilblains; NICE CKS, August 2013 (UK access only)
- Gordon R, Arikian AM, Pakula AS; Chilblains in Southern California: two case reports and a review of the literature. J Med Case Rep. 2014 Nov 22 8:381. doi: 10.1186/1752-1947-8-381.
- Chilblains; DermNet NZ
- Almahameed A, Pinto DS; Pernio (chilblains). Curr Treat Options Cardiovasc Med. 2008 Apr 10(2):128-35.
- Ozmen M, Kurtoglu V, Can G, et al; The capillaroscopic findings in idiopathic pernio: is it a microvascular disease? Mod Rheumatol. 2013 Sep 23(5):897-903. doi: 10.1007/s10165-012-0768-9. Epub 2012 Sep 24.
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