Lindsey Ebbs Podiatry - Podiatry Insights

What are Chilblains?

Chilblains (also called pernio) are small itchy, red (purple sometimes) swellings on the skin. If not addressed and treated, becomes very painful and can sometimes ulcerate, exposing the foot to the risk of infection. They occur on extremities like the toes, fingers, the face (especially the nose), and the lobes of the ears, even on exposed skin of the legs and arms.

Chilblain Images

How do you get chilblains?

Chilblains develop when the body is exposed to colder conditions. The tiny blood vessels under the skin, in the peripheral areas, constrict and shut the blood flow to these areas and redirect the blood to the main vital organs.

However, when a person returns to a warmer environment from the cold, the small blood vessels should dilate (open up) allowing the blood to flow back into the extremities again.

People who are prone to chilblains, have blood vessels that fail to return the blood back to the peripheral capillaries quickly enough after being exposed to the cold. The consequence of this time delay means the tissues are deprived of blood and the tissues simply die, chilblains present as red swollen areas of skin, that are painful, and in some cases, itch.

So, a cold foot in a cold environment is ok but once a cold foot comes into a warm environment, that’s when the problem starts as the tissues will start to metabolise without a blood supply.

Being in and out of a cold environment into a warm one is primarily the problem, this creates a challenge for the vascular system to react quickly and effectively enough to prevent chilblains from developing

Who can get chilblains?

Where can you get chilblains on the body?

Chilblains can be present on any area of the skin, but they tend to be more common on the peripheries of the body eg. feet, toes, hands, fingers, ears, and nose, but can also be on exposed areas of the skin on the legs and arms.

How do I know I have chilblains?

They usually appear, when the weather changes to cooler temperatures in the autumn to spring, usually all the winter months.

The affected areas of the skin can often feel like it is burning or itching, which usually intensifies upon entering a warm room, sitting next to a fire, in a warm bath, or in bed. There is usually swelling and redness, and in some cases, the skin can break down and ulcerate.

They can last for a few weeks or for some people they can last for months, depending on their health or occupation.

What’s the best treatment for chilblains?

Prevention of chilblains is really the best treatment, check out the advice below.

The best socks for preventing chilblains.

Karen our Practice manager suffers from really awful chilblains, as you can see from the photo, so we use her to try all the socks that she finds helpful in keeping the feet warm and the cushioning effect on the tender skin.

She loves the Injinji mid-weight trail socks for chilblains on the toes and the Darn tough boot socks for chilblains under the feet. Both socks are made with merino wool, which is thermo-regulating, keeping the feet warm in the winter and cool in the summer. The cushioning under the feet in the Darn tough boot socks is brilliant at insulating the soles of the feet and cushioning the chilblain-affected skin. Both socks work well for chilblains on the feet, it just depends on where the chilblains are located on the foot and ankle.

Injinj Socks
Darn Tough Socks

Wearing silk socks as a liner sock is beneficial as they don’t take up too much room in the shoes but insulate the foot well, link below.

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The best creams for chilblains

There are plenty of creams on the market claiming they prevent chilblains and treat chilblains but none have any evidence to back that claim up!

So, we decided to try them all out ……on Karen of course!

Warming creams (rubefacients) for chilblains

These creams are designed to warm cold areas of the skin up when you have been outside and have got cold already or to apply before you get out to prevent the feet from getting cold.

The only one Karen found to be slightly effective was “Warm your sole” oil, she admitted it did warm up her feet and her skin felt lovely, the others were not very effective in her opinion.

Warm your Sole from Body Essentials (

The creams that heat up the skin too much, like muscle rubs produce too much heat, too quickly to help chilblains, hence it has to be a gentle warming cream

Chilblain treatment creams.

These creams are designed for when you have a chilblain already and you need a product to calm them down.

The texture of a solid balm was too uncomfortable to apply to tender skin so that pretty much ruled those products out.

The Pernioderm range was Karen's favourite for chilblain relief, and the Intense and Original were her preferred ones. "She said, they stopped her waking up in the night with the pain of the chilblains”.

Pernioderm Skincare for Chilblains and Windburn Relief

Akilhiver Winter was her favourite emollient cream to apply regularly, although it technically didn't seem to help the chilblains much, it felt great on the skin, and I think this product is perfect for improving the quality of the skin and preparing the skin for winter.

Akileine Winter Foot Cream (

Broken Chilblains

If the skin has started to break down and ulcerate then please book an appointment with a Podiatrist and they will be able to help to treat and heal them for you

Best insoles for chilblains

This one is really simple as plastazote is the go-to material as a shoe liner, it comes in quite a few thicknesses but the thicker ones will work more effectively at keeping the feet warmer. It's the same material that swim floats are made of and instantly feels warm to the touch. Plastazote is available in sheets, so you can cut out your own insoles to fit all shoes and work boots. Link below;

Zotefoam Plastazote superior closed cell foam

Medication for Chilblains

There is a prescription medication (Nifedipine) for people who chronically struggle every year with chilblains and that medication is available from your GP.

If you need more advice or treatment regarding chilblains, please contact us at the clinic on 01947 8204319.

Lindsey Ebbs Podiatry, The Foothub, Whitby. Tel: 01947 820319 or our website

The Foothub Whitby
3, Byland Road
YO21 1JH

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