Chilblains are small itchy, red swellings on the skin, which can become increasingly painful. They can swell and dry out leaving cracks in the skin which expose the foot to the risk of infection.
Tiny blood vessels under the skin constrict under cold conditions. This reduces the flow of blood until the area warms up again and causes some leakage of fluid into the surrounding tissue. Chilblains are caused by the skin’s abnormal reaction to cold. But, not everyone develops them as it depends largely on the efficiency of your circulation.
Those affected are mainly affect young adults working outdoors in cold places or people who do not wear socks or tights in winter. 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 also susceptible.
During the onset of winter, susceptible people will experience burning and itching on their hands and feet. Upon entering a warm room, the itching and burning is intensified. There may also be some swelling or redness. In extreme cases, the surface of the skin may break and sores may develop.
The best way to prevent chilblains is to keep your legs, feet and body warm. Your whole body, rather than just the feet, needs to be kept warm. Trousers, long boots, tights, leg warmers, long socks and gloves will also help.
No not scratch chilblains, instead use soothing lotions such as witch hazel and calamine to take away most of the discomfort. If the chilblain has ulcerated, apply an antiseptic dressing. If the chilblain has not broken, you can paint them with a mixture of friar’s balsam and a weak solution of iodine. Your pharmacist can make up for you or an over-the-counter preparation. At night, rub some lanolin ointment well into the feet to help retain the heat.
- Keep your feet clean by washing them every day
- Dry your feet thoroughly after washing them
- Trim your toenails regularly using proper nail clippers
- Change your socks daily to keep your feet fresh
- Wear flipflops in public areas such as showers and swimming pool
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