Those living in cold and humid climate may have experienced chilblain sometime or the other in their life. Chilblain or perino as it is called in medical terminology is said to be vasospastic reaction to cold and dampness in susceptible individuals. Chilblains are small red and itchy swelling on skin which can become painful and dry out leaving cracks and fissures on skin. Chilblains usually occur on exposed areas of body particularly on fingers, toes, lobes of ears and nose.
Anyone can suffer from chilblains, but young adults working outdoors in cold and damp places and people who do not wear socks and hand gloves during winter are mainly affected. It can also develop in elderly living in cold climate with compromised blood circulation. Chilblain usually is not a serious condition, unless it gets infected.
Mostly it heals in two to three weeks on its own as the weather become warm. It does not cause permanent skin damage.
What Are The Causes Of Chilblains?
The exact reason for chilblains is unclear but it is certainly related to abnormal reaction of the body to cold atmosphere. Chilblain occurs in areas of body that undergo sudden change in temperature from cold to heat. For example a person may develop chilblain if he places his hands on fire after exposure to cold and humid atmosphere.
Sudden and quick heating after exposure to cold causes capillary dilatation under the skin. However, the larger blood vessels take time to dilate. Hence blood in smaller vessels (capillaries) leak out in the tissues beneath the skin causing redness and swelling. Following factors increase the susceptibility of developing chilblain:
- Exposure to cold and then sudden warming of the exposed part.
- Being women, the reason for this is not known.
- Underweight individuals are greater risk of developing chilblain in cold and humid climate.
- Chilblain occur more in cold and humid climate but may not develop in areas that are freezing cold probably because in this areas people are well covered and take adequate precautions against cold.
- Wearing tight footwear and socks can increase the risk of chilblain in cold and humid climate.
- People suffering from Reynaud’s disease are more susceptible to develop chilblain. Reynaud’s disease affects blood vessels of extremities.
Signs And Symptoms Of Chilblains
Chilblains often develop in cold and humid climate even if the person remains exposed to it for a while. The symptoms develop within 12 to 24 hours after exposure to cold weather. Only susceptible people experience the symptoms even if many people are exposed to cold.
- Burning and itching usually in feet and hands, particularly in toes, and fingers, nose and ear lobes. These body parts often remain exposed to cold and humidity.
- Swelling of the affected part.
- Redness in the affected area.
- The skin area may become purple after sometime.
- Dryness, cracks and fissures.
- Formation of ulcers.
Home Remedies To Get Rid Of Chilblains
Chilblains usually heal without any specific treatment within 2 to 3 weeks. However, patient may need treatment to alleviate the discomforting symptoms. Conventional treatment consists of applying topical corticosteroid locally over the affected area. It helps to reduce inflammation and itching. Besides the conventional treatment, there are few important natural remedies that can help to reduce the discomfort.
- Avoid sudden heating your hands and legs after exposure to cold. Do not place your hand and feet against fire or a radiator to reheat. Instead rub your hands and wrist together as it will stimulate the circulation and keep it warm.
- Keep the body part elevated frequently to reduce swelling.
- Stay in warm room and avoid going out in cold without wearing proper warm garments.
- Massage your hands and legs with coconut oil or mustard oil. You can also fry black pepper in mustard oil and filter the oil once it becomes cold. Massage this oil over the body to keep it warm.
- Take some amount of wheat flour and add one egg white and glycerin to it. You can also add honey. Mix well till it forms a paste. Apply the paste over the chilblain and keep it for 12 hours before washing it off with warm water.
- Apply calendula ointment over the affected area. Calendula has anti inflammatory properties which will be effective in enhancing the healing process.
- Apply raw potato slice over the area. Potato can be soothing for skin due to its anti irritant properties.
- Avoid smoking as it can further worsen the condition.