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  • Writer's pictureRobin R Varghese, PT.

Chilblains can be treated. But most importantly, it can be prevented!!!

  • Cold injuries and illnesses usually affect military personnel, traditional winter-sport athletes, and outdoor-sport athletes, like those involved in running, cycling, mountaineering, and swimming etc.

  • the occurrence of these injuries depends on low air or water temperatures (or both) and the influence of wind on the body's ability to take care of a normothermic core temperature, due to localized exposure of the extremities to cold air or surfaces.

What are Chilblains?

  • It is a non- freezing cold injury, also referred to as perniosis.

  • It is associated with extended exposure (1–5 hours) to cold, wet conditions.

  • It is an exaggerated or uncharacteristic inflammatory response to cold exposure.

  • Prolonged constriction of the skin blood vessels leads to hypoxemia and vessel wall inflammation; oedema in the dermis can also be present.

  • It may occur with or without freezing of the tissue.

  • They occur on distal extremities of the body, particularly the fingers and toes but ears, nose and face can be affected.


  • Painful

  • Tender to touch

  • Red, but sometimes blue or purplish

  • Sometimes swollen

  • Sometimes itchy or have a burning sensation

  • Associated with blistering

  • Skin necrosis or skin sloughing

  • ulceration in severe cases


  • The exact cause for chilblain are not really known. A recent review suggests that up to 20%-40% of chilblains may be associated with an underlying condition like SLE, Rheumatoid arthritis, Raynaud’s disease, Anorexia, Weight loss medication and Leukemia.

  • But there are some theories.

  • One theory is that the nerve endings that tell your brain if your extremities are cold or hot are not working properly. That means the brain isn’t getting the information it needs to open up the blood vessels and protect the area from damage.

  • Another theory is these individuals have an abnormal inflammatory response to the cold.

  • The direct cause of chilblains is exposure to the cold and sometimes moisture. The arteries and veins contribute to chilblains. That means that both the blood vessels to the area and away from the area are vasoconstricted or narrowed.


  • Remove wet or constrictive clothing, wash and dry the area gently, elevate the affected part and cover with warm, loose, dry clothing or blankets.

  • Do not disturb the blisters

  • Your physician will suggest the application of creams or lotions.

  • Adequate exercise will prevent the area from getting cold. Exercise several times a week to improve circulation and remember to rug up after exercise, even if you feel hot. Slowly lowering the body’s temperature is important.

  • Wax bath therapy once weekly may assist in keeping the feet and hands warm and more resistant to the cold. Warm (not hot) paraffin wax is placed around the feet and hands and left for 15-30 minutes. Your physical therapist will assist you with this.


  • Wear warm socks in bed, and warm stockings and slippers around the house. Do not use hot water bottles in bed especially close to feet. Do not use electric blankets on extreme heat, only on a low maintained warmth. Preferably heat the bed before sleep or turning the blanket off before getting into bed.

  • Avoid rapid changes in temperatures.

  • Rug up the affected area.

  • Avoid putting the affected area in direct contact with heat.

  • Avoid synthetic materials. Instead, prefer Natural fibers such as cotton, wool, bamboo, jute, etc. Wear sufficient layers of clothing around the body

  • Eat healthy diet and avoid smoking.

  • Educating athletes about prevention is the key to reducing the possibility of cold exposure injury or illness.

Your Physical therapist will be able to assess the severity of your condition and teach you home exercises and remedies. At Valley Healing Hands, we provide the best Physical Therapy treatment for Chilblains and other cold related injuries. Our patients are highly satisfied with our services and you may learn about us here and get connected to us here. Our patients love us and you too will!!!

Happy toes n fingers!!!

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