What are Chilblains?

Chilblains: What, Why and How to Treat Them

In Conditions by Alnoor Ladhani, Chiropodist

Cold, outdoor weather is harsh – especially on the feet. Chilblains are one of the most common outcomes of over-exposure to the cold. However, not many people know what chilblains are and how they are actually caused.

Chiropodists know that chilblains are brought on by circulation issues with the peripheral circulation in your toes. When your toes get too cold, blood vessels have a built-in mechanism that significantly reduces blood flow in order to conserve heat.


When blood vessels remain shut down for a period, chilblains are the result. Frostbite occurs when blood vessels shut down for a lengthy time, and the body is no longer able to reheat toes or fingers. Although chilblains are not as extreme as frostbite, you are still suffering damage to your skin which can result in painful or uncomfortable symptoms.

Are You Susceptible to Chilblains?

Control of the blood vessels in the fingers and toes is the main cause of chilblains, as opposed to poor circulation as many people believe. There are, however, consistent groups of people who are likely to suffer from chilblains. People who work in colder environments are obviously more likely to suffer from chilblains. Occurrences are also higher in older people and those who do not have a healthy exercise regime.

The main problem with chilblains is, there technically isn’t a problem. Your body is reacting exactly as it should. It is how you treat your body after coming in from the cold that makes all the difference. When it comes to chilblains, most sufferers take the wrong approach and can end up causing more damage to the skin.

When you suffer from chilblains your immediate thought is that you need to heat up your toes as quickly as possible. However, doing so is like cooking a frozen meal in the microwave on full power. You will notice that the meal becomes dehydrated and is probably still frozen in the middle once the timer stops.

Treating Chilblains

Treating chilblains is more about a slow and steady thawing out process. The heating of your toes should last between 15-30 minutes, depending on how much cold your toes have had to endure. Jumping from one extreme in temperature to another is never a good idea. Any process that you can use to gradually warm up your toes will be much kinder to your skin.

warming feet slowly

Insulated footwear is designed to help slowly elevate foot temperature after you come in from the cold. Rather than taking off your footwear and warming your feet by the fire, find a room with a neutral temperature and let your feet begin to warm up naturally.

Aftercare creams are like closing the stable door after the horse has already bolted. Chilblains are indicative of damaged skin, so prevention is the best cure. If you know that you are going into environments which typically cause flair-ups of chilblains, you are better off using preventative creams from a reputable supplier.

Ideally, you should seek treatment from a trusted Chiropodist. Severe cases of chilblains can make your feet feel like they are on fire. Walking or even wearing footwear becomes difficult, resulting in severe discomfort and pain. Step By Step can offer you relief from chilblains and provide you with an effective regime to help you avoid further complications.

Contact Step By Step today if your job or daily activities are making you susceptible to chilblains. We can bring you in for an appointment and make changes to your daily routine that will help you avoid further problems.