The Vale Clinic

Get the chill out of those toes – CHILBLAINS, EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW in under 5 minutes

Get the chill out of those toes – CHILBLAINS: EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW in under 5 minutes

Ronke Tinker

Chilblains, also called Pernio, is an inflammatory skin condition that occurs as an abnormal circulatory response on exposure to cold weather.

1 in 10 people in the UK suffer from it.  Anyone can get Chilblains, but it is seen mostly in the very young and elderly, usually women.

Those who experience poor circulation and small blood vessel disease are more prone to developing Chilblains.

Chilblain is not the same as Raynaud’s syndrome, however, they are both linked to poor circulation.  Many people who have Raynaud’s can go on to develop Chilblains.

Image sourced from The Footcare Clinic

How does it occur?

The exact mechanism is still uncertain, but theory suggests that individuals who suffer with Chilblains, have a sudden narrowing of the blood vessels in the skin (the capillaries) brought on by cold.  This constriction of the small blood vessels consequently reduces the blood flow to the digits, resulting in pain and swelling as the body starts to warm up.  The spots appear 12-24 hours after exposure to cold. Recovery can take as long as six weeks.

How do I recognise it?

Here are some signs and symptoms that can help you tell if you are suffering from Chilblains:

  • You develop small itchy red or dusky red swollen spots over your fingers or toes, which may be painful, and can be accompanied by a burning sensation on the skin.
  • You can experience Intense itching or/and pain
  • The spots can present as multiple or singular patches of skin
  • Dryness in the skin leading to blisters or splits in the skin
  • The skin in the affected areas can breakdown, and an infection may develop

What can be done to treat Chilblains?

Initial management should focus on limiting the source of cold and duration of exposure. Wearing gloves or socks made of breathable natural fibres such Lamb’s wool or Bamboo can insulate the skin from cold weather.

Think quality of the hosiery, and not only the quantity. For example, wearing layers of socks can in fact restrict the circulation and increase the chilling effect in the feet.  Also, avoiding extremes of temperature. The temptation is to come in from the cold and plunge them in a hot bath or wrap them around a hot water bottle, but this can in fact be the stimulus causing the skin reaction.

Bamboo socks are thermo-regulating, which means they keep feet cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Their wicking properties keep feet dry, which helps to prevent irritation.

You will find Bamboo socks in our clinic shop!


  • Avoid scratching the affected area of skin as this can break the skin and cause a sore, instead, apply Chilblain cream such as Balmosa cream or lotions containing Calamine or witch hazel, both are soothing and cooling.
  • Avoid extremes of temperature. Do not put your feet in front of direct heat or on radiators or hot water bottles.
  • Avoid walking barefoot on cold surfaces.
  • Take regular exercise and enjoy a healthy diet as this is the best natural remedy for poor circulation and are essential to keep the circulation strong.
  • Consider stopping smoking, (if you do) as this constricts the blood vessels.
  • Wear suitable fitting footwear with a good, insulated sole to avoid rubbing over the vulnerable areas and keep your feet warm and at an even temperature.
  • If you are concerned and need further advice, consider seeking help from your GP or local podiatrist so they can give you personalised advice.

What can you offer for Chilblains at The Vale Clinic?

Why not book an initial consultation with one of our Podiatrists who will check your foot health status and circulation? They will be able to confirm a diagnosis and give you tips on how to look after your feet. 

We offer Reflexology and Warm Wax Foot Therapy at the clinic, both of which are excellent treatments for an improved circulation. Our Foot Health Practitioner will help you with this.

You can book online to see us at The Vale Clinic or call on 0118 304 9389.

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