Those frosty Waikato mornings are bad for chilblains especially on the toes.

Chilblains are a sure sign that winter is here. They are usually identified as a recurrent localised, red, itchy, swollen and painful lesion on the fingers or toes. They can occur on other areas too such as the ears or nose. It is a relatively common problem affecting about ten percent of the population and more commonly affects women. Chilblains are the result of a rapid and/or prolonged change in temperature of the environment from cold to hot. The rapid change in temperature triggers an abnormal vascular (blood supply) reaction. Unfortunately, there is no easy or quick fix solution to this problem once it has occurred. However, there is a common popular belief that prevention is a lot better than treating the underlying symptoms.


Avoid extremes in temperature. This can be done by wearing dry, clean, thick woollen socks (keep a spare pair handy in case the pair you are wearing unexpectedly get wet). DON’T: use bare feet, wear damp shoes or damp inner soles. Wear shoes appropriate for the conditions eg. boots in the garden and try to avoid metal capped boots as these promote heat loss.

Short Term Treatments:

These depend on the stage the chilblains are at. If they are in the earlier stages of onset, a mild topical blood stimulant can be massaged into the affected area to promote gentle return of blood. During later stages, topical anti-puritics (to stop itching) can be applied. Waikato Podiatry can advise you on the best use of these applications, as well as help to reduce areas of pressure and stress in the foot, which may encourage chilblains. Plastazote insoles can also help insulate from the cold.

Long Term Chronic Chilblains:

There is oral medication that may be used in the very worst cases. The benefits of this are still rather controversial.

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