The extra cold weather in England this year seems to have brought an increase in cases of chilblains. It’s hard to believe that such tiny things can be so painful or intensely itchy unless you have experienced them. Chilblains usually occur on the toes but can occur on the heels, fingers, face and ears. In extreme cold they can also affect the legs.
Chilblains, also called pernio, occur as a result of the constriction of capillaries (small blood vessels) in the skin in response to the cold. When they are warmed up too quickly they expand more than nearby blood vessels causing blood to leak into the tissues.
They are more common in countries where it is damp as well as cold. They are more prevalent in people who have poor circulation due to smoking, Raynaud’s Disease, arteriosclerosis (narrowing of the arteries) or restriction of circulation due to tight socks and footwear.
Other factors contributing to chilblains are anemia, nutrient deficiencies, hormonal changes, certain drugs such as beta- blockers and damp living conditions. They are common in people who work out side or in cold conditions such as butchers.
They can be caused by warming your skin too quickly after coming in from the cold. For example warming your feet in front of a fire after coming in from the cold.
Chilblains appear red or blue and can be swollen. They can be very tender, itchy, feel tingly or burning and hot to the touch. In severe cases the skin may crack and there is the danger of infection.
Onion is a Natural Remedy
One of the most handy and effective natural remedies is to treat the chilblains with a cut onion. Gently rub the cut side of the onion over the chilblains twice a day. This can quickly relieve itching between the toes.
Some recommend dipping the onion in salt first. Don’t put raw onion on your skin if it is cracked or it is likely to sting. You can try a pulp made from cooked onion instead.
Prevention is better than cure.
Prevention is always better than cure so here are some things you can do to help prevent chilblains.
- Keep your hands and feet warm in cold weather by wearing thick but not tight wool socks and gloves.
- Avoid restricting circulation with tight socks or footwear.
- Improve circulation before going out into the cold with some exercise.
- Allow your hand and feet to warm up gradually without exposing them to fires, or heaters or hot water bottles after being out inthe cold.
- Stop smoking as it interferes with circulation and depletes Vitamin C.
- Taking a supplement of Vitamin C with bioflavanoids can help strengthen the small blood vessels
- A natural supplement of Vitamin E as mixed tocopherols 100 iu twice a day during the winter may help.
- Take a good multivitamin and minerals with at least 25 mg of the B vitamins
- Drink hot ginger tea and use ground ginger, chili and cinnamon in cooking to stimulate circulation.
- Get checked by your doctor for anemia. Only take iron as a supplement if you need it.
If you have severe or recurring chilblains you should see your doctor who can make some checks on your circulation and rule out certain health conditions.