How to Manage Chilblains

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Chilblains usually appear as itchy or painful red patches on the extremities. There are, however, many stages to a chilblain. The management of a chilblain will depend upon the stage that the chilblain is at. Chilblains can be in the following stages: cyanotic (blue), hyperaemic (red), congestive (swollen) or with broken skin. The broken stage is what you want to try to avoid, as the skin will be more prone to infection and may have trouble healing. Each stage along with treatment options will be discussed.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

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Things you need

  • 2.5% iodine
  • Chilblain cream
  • Calamine Lotion
  • Witch hazel
  • Antiseptic lotion
  • Sterile dressing

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  1. 1

    Do not be alarmed if the skin around the chilblain appears blue or purple. This is an indication of poor blood flow to the area. Visit your pharmacist, who will advise you on a suitable topical treatment you can use to increase blood flow to the area. Such treatments include 2.5% iodine and some chilblain creams.

  2. 2

    Seek advice from your pharmacist or doctor if the area is very painful or itchy. This is often the case in the hyperaemic stage. The skin around the chilblain appears red due to local inflammation, with increased blood flow to the area. Analgesics and cooling agents can help, such as Calamine Lotion or witch hazel.

  3. 3

    Bathe the affected area in alternating warm and cool water. This will open and close the circulation and help to reduce the excessive swelling that occurs in the congestive stage. Be careful not to have the water too hot or too cold. Switch every couple of minutes, and repeat the cycle three times.

  4. 4

    Apply some antiseptic lotion and a sterile dressing if the skin is broken. This should be done daily until the skin has healed, to prevent any infection.

Tips and warnings

  • If you are unsure how to manage a chilblain, visit your doctor.
  • Always seek medical advice if you have diabetes, poor circulation, poor sensation or a lowered immune system due to a condition or medication.

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