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How to Prevent and Treat Chilblains Toes and Fingers

Have you ever come in from a long, snowy day of sledding or throwing snowballs and experienced red, itchy skin long after getting back in from the cold? While it’s by no means 100 percent likely, there’s a slight chance that you could have been suffering from Chilblains Toes.

Keep reading to learn more about how to spot and treat this condition so that you can keep yourself safe!

Chilblains Toes

What Is Chilblains Toes?

Chilblains Toes, also known as “Chilblains” or “pernio,” is a condition in which small blood vessels in the skin become inflamed.

This injury occurs after exposure to cold, damp air while the skin is still rewarming.

Although this condition is often called “Chilblains Toes,” it can also affect your fingers. Therefore, be sure to use the same prevention strategies for your fingers as you do for your toes!


There are a few different risk factors that might make you slightly more susceptible to developing Chilblains Toes. If any of these characteristics are applicable to you, you may want to take extra precautions and be especially vigilant if symptoms arise.

Because Chilblains affects your blood vessels, people with poor or impaired circulation are often more likely to experience symptoms. This also includes people who suffer from Raynaud’s, which is a condition where blood supply to the fingers and toes is restricted.

People with Lupus, which can cause the swelling of tissue, are also at a higher risk of experiencing Chilblains.


Chilblains Toes has many symptoms, some of which are fairly similar to symptoms of frostbite, and others that are a little more unique to this particular syndrome.

One of the most easily detected symptoms is redness of the affected area. However, as rewarming progresses, the color of your skin may begin to change. This is another sign of Chilblains.

People suffering from this condition may also experience itching or burning sensations as their skin starts to warm up.

Two of the more severe symptoms that may arise are the formation of blisters on the skin as well as swelling of the affected area.

How to Prevent

One tricky aspect of Chilblains is that you may not know if you’re preventing it in the moment. This is because symptoms usually develop a few hours after the exposure to cold weather occurs.

Boots in the Snow

However, there are definitely steps you can take proactively so that your symptoms are less severe or so that you don’t develop symptoms at all!

Keep Your Clothing in Mind

First of all, controlling the thickness and tightness of your clothing is key. While you’re out in the cold weather, remove or loosen any tight clothing so that your circulation isn’t negatively impacted.

Even though you shouldn’t wear tight clothing, you should still be protecting yourself with lots of outerwear. Layer up to keep your body nice and warm.

Because dampness is a big contributing factor in eventually developing Chilblains Toes, try to remove any wet clothing and dry off your feet and hands.

Avoid Stimulants

Although these next two pieces of advice might seem a little unconventional, they’re important to take note of regardless.

Don’t smoke or use other nicotine products if you’re planning to be outdoors in cold weather for an extended period of time. Smoking causes your blood vessels contract when exposed to nicotine, which decreases circulation.

In addition, you should avoid consuming significant amounts of caffeine. Similar to nicotine, caffeine will also affect your circulation negatively.

Warm Up Gradually

Staying warm, but not hot, is essential to preventing Chilblains!

When you’re outdoors, walk around and remain moving in order to keep your blood pumping.

Warming Your Foot

If you decide to go inside and warm up, don’t use hot water to bring up your body temperature. Soaking your feet or hands in hot water rather than warm water will cause too drastic of a temperature change for your cold fingers and toes.

How to Treat

Luckily, Chilblains toes are fairly easy to treat in most situations and won’t require medical attention in the majority of cases.

To reduce the dryness that spending time outdoors in cold weather may cause, use lotion to moisturize your skin. This will also help to decrease any itchiness you may have.

If you develop blisters or ulcers, make sure not to scratch the affected area. Irritating the skin like this will exacerbate the Chilblains blisters or ulcers, and it may also make them more susceptible to infection in the future.

If you have any pain while rewarming or if your pain persists, you can take ibuprofen to combat this symptom.

Lasting Effects

Another relatively good aspect of Chilblains toes compared to other winter-weather injuries is that its lasting effects are not particularly lengthy or severe.

For example, many if not all of your symptoms will generally go away in one to three weeks. Even if your symptoms do persist for a little while, most people find that they completely disappear once it gets warm outdoors.

Snowy Boots

It’s important to note that if you’re particularly susceptible to Chilblains toes, your symptoms may reappear seasonally. However, they’ll still usually disappear in the warmer months.

If you develop ulcers on your skin, they may last a little longer than your other symptoms, particularly blisters. Although ulcers might last a little longer than blisters, they’re typically not permanent.

While the actual symptoms aren’t usually permanent, they can very occasionally cause infection that could lead to lasting damage.

If you notice any of your symptoms worsening or if you develop new and different symptoms, seek medical attention to rule out infection.

Finally, you may notice some scarring or discoloration in the affected area.

Educating Yourself About Chilblains

By watching for warning signs and symptoms as well as utilizing the proper treatment and prevention strategies, you can keep yourself safe and informed about this condition! From this post, you should have all the information you need to take those first steps to combat Chilblains Toes.

If you want to read more about how to prepare for other cold-weather situations, check out our Cold climate survival page for additional resources.