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The winter season is fast approaching, energy bills are rocketing, and it is important to keep our feet warm using well fitted socks and shoes.

Chilblains can occur on the toes, fingers, nose or ear lobes.  Excessive pressure on the areas, especially toes can make them more vulnerable to chilblains.  They appear as red swellings with localised inflammation on the skin and can become increasingly painful, can blister, breakdown and become ulcerated prone to infection.  Foot deformities such as bunions, hammer toes and mallet toes can make your foot more at risk by blanching the capillary blood flow out of the extremities.

What Causes Chilblains?

They are caused by the skin’s reaction to cold and develop when the small blood vessels are constricted reducing the blood flow and then when the area warms up again, it causes some leakage of fluid into the surrounding tissue.  Not everyone will develop the, and it can depend on your general circulation and health conditions that are associated with poor circulation.  Often elderly can be more vulnerable and people that work outside in damp or draughty conditions.  Dietary factors, hormonal conditions, external factors such as working environment, standing for long periods on hard floors.  It is thought that rapid changes to the temperature from cold to hot such as putting your feet on a hot water bottle, getting into a hot bath, even putting the hot air on your feet in the car may result in chilblains.

How to Treat Chilblains

If you develop chilblains, do not scratch them.  Soothing lotions such as witch hazel can be used or calamine lotion to reduce the discomfort.  If the skin has broken, it is important to keep the area clean and apply an antiseptic and a dressing.  If you have any medical conditions that make you at risk to infection, such as diabetes or an inflammatory condition, it is important to seek medical advice and be assessed by your GP or podiatrist.

If the skin hasn’t broken, the Friar’s Balsam and iodine can be purchased at your chemist and keeping the area moisturised will prevent the skin from drying and cracking.  I have personally found that some creams available such as Gehwol Red have been beneficial in preventing chilblains.  The cream contains natural herbs and spices that supposedly increase localised blood flow.  (Very mild effect yet through years of practice, I have definitely seen improvement.)  It contains pine, lavender, paprika and cayenne pepper along with urea, a good moisturising component.

Prevention

Prevention is always best by keeping warm with warms gloves, socks, hats that are well fitting.  Anything too tight will not help the circulation.  Be aware that thicker socks may make your footwear too snug and creates pressure points.  You should be able to wriggle your toes and have a little space around them.  There are also some great socks with silver threads that can help keep your feet warm and keep the cold out. Plasterzote insulating insoles can also help to line your footwear.  Find more information on the Raynauds website. Raynaud’s Disease & Raynaud’s Syndrome Products – RaynaudsDisease.com

In more recent times of Covid, there have been many cases seen where toes presented with a chilblain, inflammatory appearance- “covid toe.”

If you would like further support with any symptoms associated with cold feet, chilblains or painful toes and feet, please contact me. 

You can book online via the website or call me to book an appointment in Heswall.   Fellows Podiatry is HCPC registered, a member of the Royal College of Podiatry and is fully insured.  Keep warm, keep active and moving to keep the circulatory system healthy.

More information can be found on the College of Podiatry Website Royal College of Podiatry (rcpod.org.uk) and the NHS website Chilblains – NHS (www.nhs.uk)