Photo: Mohammad2018, Wikicommons

It seems that winter in Ontario started suddenly and without warning just last night complete with cold whistling winds, snow, and below 0 degree temperatures. 

This means that many people, expecting the usual 10 degree and above temperatures found themselves without gloves and at risk for chilblains.

Chilblains are an inflammation of the small blood vessels in the skin in response to cold but above freezing temperatures. Chilblains are not the same as frostbite, which occurs when the skin is exposed to below freezing temperatures. The condition is more the result of prolonged exposure to cold, so remember to stuff those gloves in your pocket before you leave home.

Chilblain Symptoms

The symptoms of chilblains are red swollen skin that feels tender and painful to the touch. Wearing gloves or clothing may be uncomfortable as your blood vessels swell. Chilblains usually occur on the ears, fingers, and toes as these are areas that are more likely to be exposed to prolonged periods of cold. 

The tricky thing is that the symptoms of chilblains do not occur right away. They usually occur several hours after exposure to the cold. The skin might feel itchy or like it is burning. It also may feel cooler or hotter to the touch compared to the temperature of your skin on other places on your body. Some people may feel that they are itching because of bug bites, or tingling because “their foot is asleep” when really the symptom is a chilblain finally making its presence known.

Aside from the itchy or burning symptoms, you may also experience possible blistering or skin ulcers as well as changes in skin color, from red to dark blue, accompanied by pain.

Treatment of Chilblains

A treatment for chilblains is to warm the skin by staying in a warm environment after it is cold. Do not try and warm the skin with a hot water bottle or by immersing the skin in warm water. Keep the skin warm and dry and uncovered.

Avoid further exposure to cold by avoiding going outside when it’s cold or damp and wearing warm, waterproof clothing, gloves, and thick socks if you do have to go out. Avoid nicotine, alcohol and caffeine, as all serve to narrow your blood vessels further.

If the chilblains are very painful, itchy, and swollen and do not seem to be disappearing after two or three days a doctor may administer corticosteroid creams to relieve the condition.

Chilblains Usually Go Away on Their Own

The exact cause of chilblains isn’t known. However, blood tests have revealed that an abnormal protein in the blood of some individuals may put them at more of a predisposition to develop them.

A case of chilblains usually takes seven to ten days and the symptoms might be latent, showing up for days after your skin’s overexposure to the cold. To prevent this condition make sure that you dress warmly and cover as much skin as possible when you go outside in cold weather.

For more information about how to cope with the pain and swelling of chilblaines, deal with immuneodeficiencies that may cause joint and skin inflammation or to book a consultation, visit the Pinewood Natural Healthcare Centre website that has a list of full services and products at You can also call our Toronto Office at  (416)-656- 8100. We also have an office in Pickering, Ontario at (905)-427-0057. Send an email to and we would be happy to answer any question that you have about our holistic health services which includes anti-aging, naturopathic testing, acupuncture, weight loss programs and many other common health conditions.

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