Chilblains – Winter woes

Chilblains! Its winter and you have decided to brave the cold mornings with some brisk exercise. Firstly, congratulations on making it out from under your warm blankets and into the fresh frosty weather.

Getting up on a cold morning isn’t an easy feat (no pun intended) and although the thermometer has dropped to low temperatures we can’t just say goodbye to exercise until spring. Exercise is an important daily routine that can help keep our bodies in good health. So what problems can our feet encounter whilst exercising in cold weather?

Chilblains. The dreaded small red/purple, itchy, burning swellings on our skin.

What are Chilblains?

When our skin is exposed to cold temperatures our blood vessels constrict/reduce in size, when our skin returns to warm temperatures our blood vessels dilate/enlarge. If our feet are moved from a cold environment to a hot environment rapidly, then our blood vessels can leak fluid into the surrounding tissue and this can be thought to cause the redness and swelling associated with Chilblains.

How do we treat them?

Chilblains can be treated and resolved within a few weeks. The most important step is getting an accurate diagnosis- to make sure that we are dealing with Chilblains. There are creams that your podiatrist can advise to get rid of the symptoms such as itchiness. If left untreated, chilblains can become problematic and can lead to ulceration. Ulcers are critical problems for people with diabetes or poor circulation. Luckily, you can arrange a podiatry appointment for management and get education about proper foot care and footwear during the winter.

How to prevent them

Keeping your feet warm in cold weather is the first step in preventing chilblains. When going out in the cold, several layers is better than one thick layer as several layers can trap warm pockets of air and can leave you warmer overall. Avoid putting cold feet in front of a heater or under a heat pack. The rapid heating process will only aggravate your skin and lead to further symptoms from Chilblains. Let your feet warm up gradually, either walk around the house, massage your feet or place a non-heated blanket over them.