Chilblains are small, itchy, painful lumps that develop on the skin as an abnormal response to cold.

What are chilblains?

Chilblains sound rather like something little old ladies get, but in fact anyone can get chilblains at any age. They are as common in children as they are in elderly people. Chilblains are lumps on the skin which come up as an abnormal reaction to the cold. They are usually red or purplish.

They can be itchy or sore. Sometimes they come up when skin is warmed up too quickly after it has been cold. Nobody really knows why some people are prone to chilblains and others are luckier and don't get them.

Chilblains on the toes

How long do chilblains last?

Usually chilblains go away of their own accord within a week or two. You may get more if you are prone to them, and are exposed to cold conditions. Occasionally, they can hang around if you are continually exposed to the cold.

Do I need any tests?

No. Chilblains can be diagnosed from their typical appearance together with the background of having been exposed to cold.

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  • 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.
Dr Mary Harding
Peer Reviewer:
Dr Hannah Gronow
Document ID:
4583 (v42)
Last Checked:
03 July 2016
Next Review:
03 July 2019

Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. Patient Platform Limited has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but make no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details see our conditions.