What Can You Do About Chilblains This Winter?

Could those itchy patches of skin on your hands or feet be chilblains? Learn the signs of chilblains and how to prevent them from interfering with your winter fun.
With cold and snow blanketing most of the nation, it’s time to step up your winter skincare routine. Just as summer sunlight leads to harmful sunburns, winter’s cold temperatures causes a skin condition known as chilblains. Occurring most often in cold, humid climates, chilblains appear as small, itchy patches on the fingers and feet.
That’s because exposure to cold temperatures pinches the capillaries (small blood vessels) under the skin, resulting in damage to those vessels in some individuals. Once you retreat from the cold, you’ll strive to warm your skin as soon as possible by rubbing your hands together or putting them before a fire. However, these actions heat up the vessels too quickly, forcing blood into surrounding tissues and causing inflammation.
Chilblains usually resolve without medical treatment. If the bumps don’t diminish and at-home treatments fail to reduce discomfort, your doctor can prescribe other treatment methods to help you enjoy the winter months.
Preventing Chilblains
Chilblains affect more women than men and tend to strike people with autoimmune disorders like lupus. Possible complications from chilblains include ulcers or blisters that could grow into an infection. To prevent chilblains, follow these guidelines:
Cover exposed skin with gloves and winter clothing when outdoors. Change gloves and socks when they become wet.
Keep your hands and feet dry and warm.
Don’t smoke — it restricts circulation. People with poor circulation are more susceptible to chilblains.
Gently warm skin in warm, not hot, water.
Don’t rub your hands together
Don’t put your hands too close to a fire or another direct heat source.
Despite these preventative measures, you may still develop chilblains. Most people find relief with at-home remedies; applying a lotion to alleviate the itching and cleaning the skin resolves the condition for most people. Be careful not to scratch the sores, and always gradually warm your skin after coming in from the cold.
If the chilblains don’t disappear within two to three weeks, you should seek treatment. Your doctor will want to rule out other possible conditions such as anemia and check your circulation.
Chilblains frequently occur alongside Raynaud’s disease, another painful skin condition that causes discoloration of fingers and toes. The skin turns white and then blue after more time in the cold, and your hands may ache as the skin warms. Having this condition increases the likelihood of chilblains.
To treat chilblains, you may be given a prescription for high blood pressure medication to boost circulation by dilating the blood vessels. Be aware these medications come with side effects; discuss the benefits and drawbacks of those drugs with your doctor. A topical corticosteroid could be prescribed to treat the lesions, as well.
Enjoy The Winter
Don’t let the cold temperatures prevent you from enjoying the holiday season and winter fun. At Florida Hand Center, we’ll determine if you have chilblains and how they are best treated. Although our office is in Florida, many of our patients travel to colder regions to see family and friends; don’t let chilblains spoil your vacation time. Contact us for an appointment today.