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How to Heal and Prevent Chilblains

How to Heal and Prevent Chilblains

People living in a cold and humid climate definitely know about chilblains. It is a medical condition that occurs due to sudden warming of the skin after exposure to cold temperatures.

The sudden change in temperature causes the blood vessels to quickly expand, leading to leakage of blood into the nearby tissues.

Chilblains can affect different body parts, such as the feet, toes, hands, fingers, ears, earlobes and nose. Some symptoms are a burning sensation, intense itching, redness on the affected area, pain, swelling, inflammation, and dryness. In severe cases, blisters may appear on the affected area and infection and ulceration can also set in.

This problem can affect people of any age, but it is more common in children and elderly people. The condition also affects more women than men. Other risk factors include poor circulation, a family history of chilblains, a poor diet, low body weight and excessive smoking.

In most cases, chilblains will heal on its own within 1 to 3 weeks when further exposure to cold is avoided. In the meantime, you can use some simple remedies and preventive tips to reduce the intensity of symptoms or discomfort.

Here are the top 10 ways to heal and prevent chilblains.

1. Elevation
When suffering from chilblains, the first thing you need to do is elevate the affected area. This will help improve blood circulation, in turn reducing swelling, inflammation and pain.

You can place your hands and legs on a few pillows to keep them elevated. If your nose or ears are affected, sit in a high-backed chair and bend your neck backwards.

You can also wrap yourself with a warm blanket and drink a glass of hot chocolate or a cup of warm herbal tea to help your body adapt to warm temperature. Once your body adjusts to the room temperature, gently massage the affected area with warm coconut oil or olive oil to improve blood flow.

2. Massage
With the onset of the winter months, you need to massage your hands and legs gently in circular motions twice daily, in the morning and at night before going to bed. This will ensure good blood circulation and reduce your risk of developing chilblains.

You can use palm oil or castor oil to massage your hands and legs.
Another option is to add a few drops of an essential oil like lavender, rosemary or lemon oil to any good quality vegetable oil and use it to massage.

3. Onion
A popular age-old remedy for chilblains is onions. Onions have anti-inflammatory, antiseptic and antibiotic properties that can help reduce itching, pain, swelling and inflammation, and reduce the risk of infection.

Cut an onion into thick slices. Gently rub a slice of onion over the affected area. Leave it on for 15 minutes, then wipe it off with a warm washcloth. Do this 2 or 3 times a day for 1 to 2 weeks.
Alternatively, grind 1 to 2 onions into a paste. Apply it all over the affected area and leave it on for 15 to 20 minutes. Rinse the paste off with cold water. Do this a few times daily for 1 or 2 weeks.
Note: Do not apply raw onion or onion juice on cracked skin.

4. Potatoes
Potatoes can bring down the itching and inflammation caused by chilblains to a great extent, due to their anti-irritating and soothing properties. They are also good for treating blisters that develop with chilblains.

Cut a raw potato into thick slices. Sprinkle some salt on the slices and gently rub them on the affected area.
Boil 1 or 2 potatoes in 2 cups of water for 10 to 15 minutes. Allow the solution to cool down. Soak the affected area in the solution for about 10 minutes.
Follow either of these treatments twice daily for a week.

5. Calendula
Calendula can also be used to treat acute chilblains. This herb has anti-inflammatory properties that can reduce inflammation and pain as well as encourage quick healing.

Boil a handful of calendula flowers in 2 cups of water and then let the solution simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. Allow the solution to cool down and add some sea salt to it. Soak the affected area in this solution for about 15 minutes once or twice daily.
You can also buy calendula ointment from the market and apply it on the affected areas as directed.
6. Garlic
Garlic is another good remedy to eliminate symptoms of chilblains. Due to its anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties, it can instantly reduce inflammation and itchiness as well as promote quick healing.

Rub the affected area with garlic oil several times a day to stimulate blood flow and relieve some of the discomforts.
Also include garlic in your diet.

7. Black Peppercorn

Black peppercorns are also useful in the treatment of chilblains. They have anti-inflammatory properties that help reduce inflammation, swelling and pain.

Grind ½ to 1 teaspoon of black peppercorns thoroughly.
Heat 1 tablespoon of sesame seed oil and add the ground black peppercorns to it.
Strain, and allow it cool down a little bit.
Use this warm oil to massage the affected areas 2 or 3 times daily.
Avoid using this oil if there is any cracked skin or bleeding on the affected area.

8. Aloe Vera

Aloe vera has anti-inflammatory as well as healing properties that can help treat chilblains. It can help soothe inflammation, reduce pain and eliminate other discomforts.

Cut open an aloe vera leaf to extract its gel.
Apply this gel on the affected areas.
Massage gently to increase blood circulation.
Allow it to dry on its own, then rinse it off with a wet tissue.
Follow this treatment 1 or 2 times daily until you see improvement.

9. Increase Calcium Intake

It has been found that calcium deficiency can make a person more vulnerable to chilblains. If you have a history of suffering from chilblains during the winter, you may be able to prevent it by increasing your calcium intake.

Eat foods high in calcium like milk, cheese, yogurt, soybeans, fortified soy milk, fortified orange juice, fortified cereals, broccoli, kale, collard greens, white beans, sardines, salmon, and others.
If required, take a calcium supplement after consulting a doctor.

10. Exercise Regularly

Poor blood circulation can make you more susceptible to chilblains. To overcome this risk factor, exercise regularly.

Exercise can improve blood circulation to all parts of the body. But before starting any exercise, make sure to warm up gradually with simple foot exercises to get the blood circulating.

Cardiovascular workouts and aerobic exercises for 30 minutes daily will help a lot.
You can also go walking, bicycling, jogging or swimming daily to improve circulation.

Additional Tips

Massage your toes and fingers with warm oil 2 or 3 times a day to improve blood circulation.
Avoid rapid changes in temperature (from cold to warm).
Wear proper warm clothes in cold weather.
Keep your head and ears warm by wearing scarves and woolen caps.
Avoid cold exposure for long times.
Avoid exposing the skin to any direct heat, especially after exposure to cold.
Keep the skin moisturized to prevent itching.
Avoid scratching the affected skin as it can damage the skin.
Always wear shoes that fit comfortably and use thermal insoles to keep the feet warm.
Avoid wearing damp clothing.
Keep your living area and bedroom warm and comfortable.
Keep your legs warm at all times by wearing full trousers, leg warmers, long woolen socks or high boots.
Avoid smoking as it can hamper circulation and increase your risk for chilblains.
Drink hot drinks several times a day to keep your entire body warm.
Place cotton or wool between the toes to improve circulation.
Include almonds, sesame seeds and cold-water fish in your diet to get essential fatty acids.
If your chilblains do not heal within a few weeks or develop blisters that become infected, consult your doctor.